Close your eyes and think of chillies. What country are you transported to? India? Italy maybe?
Well to tie in with our chilli and all things comforting theme this month, we have asked our friends at the Hedonist Guide (Hg2) to suggest the best places to indulge in your chilli passion in two other ‘chilli hot-spots’ in this glorious culinary world of ours. So here are their picks of the best places to visit in Thailand and Mexico.
It has been said that there is spicy and then there is Thai spicy, and we’ve found that to be true. Even as spicy food lovers, sometimes Thai spicy can be an eye watering, mouth singeing experience. If you’re looking to get fired up in Bangkok, try these areas famous for street food:
One of the main arteries through Bangkok, Rama IV is packed with street vendors, especially along the little soi’s (side streets) and in particular concentration near the Lumphini Boxing Stadium. This is a good place to sample som tam (spicy green papaya salad) and Northern Thai larb (stir-fried minced pork) from Chiang Mai.
One of the most cosmopolitan areas of Bangkok, Silom Road is also a popular nightlife area and, thus, boasts lots of great street food. Soi Convent is very well known for its plethora of vendors. A particular spicy delight here is the khao mok gai, or spicy chicken biryani and rice, while the Hai Somtam stall here is also well known for serving some of the best som tam in Bangkok.
For a slightly less hectic street food experience, the leafy neighbourhood of Banglamphu in the old part of Bangkok rewards with plenty of street stalls in a breezier, old school environment – try Yaowarat Road for the best selection of dishes like pad thai and tom yam goong (firey shrimp soup). Banglamphu Market, meanwhile, is a great place to sample tod mun pla (spicy Thai fish cakes).
In the hunt for spicy food, Mexico is an obvious destination choice, with many ways to tingle your tongue on offer throughout the land.
The pretty colonial town of Mérida in Yucatán, home to the Habenero chilli, is fast becoming a top foodie destination. Check out Los Dos (los-dos.com), run by Chef David Sterling, for spicy delights like Albariño-Poached Red Snapper and a charred chilli sauce called Relleno Negro (you can also take a spicy cooking course here). An unusual post-dining tipple is to be found at Ki-xoclatl, a chocolatier-cum-bar that sells spicy hot chocolate.
For a more proletarian feast, spice lovers should head north to Guadalajara to brave the famous tortas ahogadas – ‘drowned cakes’ filled with slow roasted pork, floundering in an ocean of chilli sauce. Try for a table at Tortas Ahogadas Cesár (López Cotilla 1449 A, Guadalajara, Jalisco), where the less adventurous can sample the dish media ahgoda or merely ‘half drowned’.
Lovers of the vastly complex Mexican ‘mole’ sauce can try it in all seven local guises in Oaxaca, where it is a particular delicacy. The upmarket Los Pacos (lospacos.com) does a platter with all the varieties for a proper taste-test, along with a number of other Oaxacan specialties.
At the St Regis Hotel (starwoodhotels.com) in Mexico City, drinkers can partake in a hotel tradition and sip on their ‘local’ version of a Bloody Mary. Here, the cocktail is called a Sangrita Maria—an enticing blend of mezcal, sangrita and a bracing dash of pasilla chile puree. The spicy concoction can be enjoyed in their plush indoor surroundings or out on the third floor terrace.