La connoisseur! To what extent can the taste, smell and sight of spicy food drive us crazy? Food aficionados that pledge life-long allegiance to exotic food from across the globe can do really weird things. For example, they can trade William Shakespeare’s wisdom from the act one, scene one of the Twelfth Night of “If music be the food of love, play on” for George Bernard Shaw’s “there is no sincerer love than the love of food.”
Miracles happen when food lovers smell the aroma of signature dishes of food travel destinations located a thousand miles away and decide to quit their job if need be, pack their bags and go globetrotting in the quest to flag eateries with their taste buds.
That brings us to the all-important question of the top locations across the world that offers the gastronomic pleasures of a lifetime. Take this whirlwind tour to know, imagine and taste the most colourful food from different places across the world and transform this world into a giant food bowl!
1) Ema Datshi, the national food of Bhutan that uses chillies as vegetables
Away from the din and bustle of life on the fast track, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is the perfect place to script the great escapade into snow-capped mountains, frozen winters and the piquant taste of Ema Datshi.
The national dish of Bhutan, Ema Datshi derives its nomenclature from the two root words in the local Dzongkha language: “ema” meaning chillies and “datshi” meaning cheese. Call it an oxymoron but this signature dish of Bhutan offers a standardised focus and variety in the same breath.
This dish fixates on a generous use of chillies as vegetables and allows spicy food lovers to explore a wide variety of chillies as substitutes. Thus one may choose from chilli pepper, red chillies, green chillies and white chillies! A foodie that holds the acrid taste of chillies as God’s gift to mankind is guaranteed to go gaga on the typically spicy taste.
2) Dan Dan noodles in Sichuan Province, China: fiery red and steaming hot
East is red and red is east. Welcome to China. As opposed to the popular belief that China offers a staple basket of uniform flavours across regions in the country, it offers incredible local cuisine varieties.
Provinces like Sichuan, for example, offer flavours that are steaming, fiery and red hot. The province hosts the monolith of The Leshan Giant Buddha and attracts tourists from across the world. There is yet another reason to travel to Sichuan. The famous Sichuan cuisine traditionally makes generous use of chillies and pepper.
Dan Dan noodles; one of the signature dishes of the Sichuan Chinese cuisine derives its name from the poles that street vendors once used to sell the food in the local market. They would hang the noodles from one end of the pole and the sauce from the other end. Gradually the locals came to call the noodles by the name Dan Dan.
While Dan Dan noodles is originally, so to speak, a street food in Sichuan, the fiery hot taste emanating from the steamed, meat-filled dumplings and sauce has taken it places across the world. The best way to savour it though is to visit Sichuan, soak in the local Chinese culture, family life and food etiquette and share a dinner table with friends and family in the freezing cold winter of the area.
3) Harissa: the hot favourite in the freezing winters of Kashmir in India
While people travel to India to take in the visual treats of the Himalayas, ancient temples, and historical sites, the food traveller eyes a different dimension: the country’s popular food delicacies.
Not to mention there are top Indian delicacies to savour across Indian states like the Galauti Kebabs in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, the Chungudi Aloo Tarakari in Odisha and Pork Vindaloo in Goa, but connoisseurs of chilli shall admit that the sheer piquant taste of the Harissa makes Kashmir an apt halt to a food adventure trip to India.
In the freezing winters of Kashmir in India, people seek asylum in one of the finest local cuisines; Harissa. The onset of the winter with a harsh forty-day period of sub-zero temperature called the “Chillai Kalan” in the region begs for sizzling hot and spicy food. Harissa, the local spicy mutton dish of Kashmir is a befitting reply to the cold.
Mutton marinated overnight and cooked, de-boned and simmered on heat with a spice mixture of cloves, black and green cardamom, fennel seeds, garlic cloves and dried ginger powder, sends the mercury levels inside the body of the foodie soaring high enough to brave the onslaught.
To guess the intensity of the acrid taste of Harissa, catch this statement: Harissa is had by the locals as a breakfast dish and the fiery taste and high-calorie content keeps the body warm throughout the entire day. When on a trip to Kashmir in winter, wake up early in the morning and head straight to the nearest Harissa-Gaer shop to avoid early morning rush. Bite into the steaming hot Harissa.
4) Jerk chicken and Red Stripe beer: pack a punch in Jamaica
No, we are not talking of the legendary Jamaican Punch. This is serious stuff and meant for the brave. Food lovers that feel the watering at the mouth at the mere mention of the acrid and hot taste of chicken cooked in spicy sauce marinades, the local speciality scotch bonnet chillies, garlic cloves and coarsely ground pepper should make a trip to Jamaica.
The fiercely piquant taste of chicken grilled over a medium-hot fire causes the red-hot energy of a hundred chillies to explode in the mouth, scaling the heat level inside the body and around by few times. Spicy food lovers that are willing enough to take inspiration from the Jamaican locals find the taste of the Jamaican Jerk Chicken to be unparalleled in the category of spiced hot chicken dishes.
People that do not want to risk the heat levels raised by the scotch bonnet chillies, garlic cloves, and coarsely ground pepper can seek refuge in the addition of coconut milk and potatoes. Many a time when tears roll down the cheeks, try cooling off with a bottle of the Red Stripe beer in between chewing the chicken. There are ample food stalls on the streets of Jamaica that offer authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken.
5) Pozole: raise the heat with spicy food in red hot Mexico
Mexico celebrates food like no other nation. Mexican cuisine stands out in the world order for its rich, spicy and acrid tastes and benevolent use of a vast variety of homegrown chillies like the Jalapeno, Poblano, Serrano, Habanero, and Ancho.
Two dishes of the incredible local cuisine of Mexico stand out for their fiery red hot tastes: Pozole and Tacos. Pozole, the traditional soup of Mexico that is prepared with a base of hominy cooked in broth is a hit with the tourists at the street food stalls and eateries in Mexico and has now taken off to faraway places, owing to its steaming hot taste.
Hominy, a form of processed and dried maize forms the base of Pozole. The broth is a soupy paste of bones, meat, fish, and vegetables that have been simmered to give a rich creamy taste to dishes like soups, gravies, and sauces in Mexican cuisine. The broth that is typically used in the preparation of dishes like Pozole consists of pork or beef or chicken.
The hot taste attributes itself to the generous use of Ancho chillies, diced green chillies and black pepper in formidable quantities. The Casa Licha Pozole, La Casa De Tono, and El Pozole de Moctezuma are some of the best-known restaurants in Mexico City that serve the best varieties of the spicy food.
6) Doro Wat, the hottest taste from the cradle of human civilisation: Ethiopia
Ethiopia, the cradle of human civilisation has a lot to offer to mankind in terms of pre-human history and archaeology. Yet, the best part of Ethiopia is perhaps reserved for spicy food lovers that like the aroma of African spice mixes and savour the hot taste of chillies, garlic and spice mixes bursting in the mouth, raising the heat several notches in the process.
Doro Wat is the national dish of Ethiopia and probably the most famous of all African dishes known to the global community of spicy food lovers. Usually made of beef or chicken and topped off with boiled eggs, the dish relies heavily in its use of traditional Ethiopian spice mixes like the Berbere and Mitmita.
The key to a great red-hot taste of the Doro Wat is the quality of the Berbere that goes into it. While there are different versions of Berbere, all of those are combinations of whole spices and spices that are roasted and ground. Mitmita, the other top spice mix used for seasoning chicken in Ethiopian cuisine contains piri piri, cardamom, cloves, cumin, cinnamon and salt that are ground together to serve an orange-red colour that symbolizes the explosion of heat that in unleashes when used in Ethiopian cuisine dishes like the Doro Wat.
Cultures and communities across the world can be seen, heard of, visited and experienced. The holistic meaning of experiencing cultures and communities is perhaps best embodied in savouring the tastes of the incredible local cuisines that they offer.
While travellers perceive of places across the world as mere points on the global map, spicy food buffs look at them as food travel destinations, meaning that they look at the world as one giant food bowl. With so much to eat, drink and taste in a lifetime, can a true foodie stay calm? Don’t keep calm and keep eating as there is no other day.
A wanderer by choice, Michelle Breitstein has an unending love for the mountains. She craves for experiences of all kinds and goes wherever her wanderlust takes her. She has explored Switzerland, India, France, Austria, Nepal, Tibet and several places in her own country, United States. She also has interest in mountain biking, kayaking and leading a nomadic life where she can spare time for travel writing, food blogger, adventure sports, photography, volunteer travel, and staying cooped in a caravan and guiding a tour.