This is a list for our fellow masochists of the food world. You know who you are: you’re the ones who see menu warnings as challenges, the ones whose lips crave the numbing tingle of sichuan peppercorn overload, the ones who seek out that special burning sensation with the same avidity and lust as any other addict does when in search of a fix. We know you. We understand you. We are you.
And so this round up of Brooklyn’s spiciest food is for you. These are the dishes that pass muster as ones that will set your mouth aflame, your eyes watering, and your nose running. But these dishes are not just about scorching the taste buds; they also are some of the most consistently flavorful and delicious menu options borough-wide. And also? They’re all pretty affordable, which just so happens to be a happy coincidence when it comes to super spicy food. (Or, you know, not a coincidence at all, but partly because lots of truly spicy food is native to cuisines of which we’re lucky enough to have plenty of affordable options here in Brooklyn.) So try and eat your way through this list, just be sure to bring plenty of napkins. Your nose will be running.
Ox Tongue and Tripe with Hot Sauce: Bamboo Pavilion
Though this Brooklyn neighborhood used to be pretty exclusively and Italian-American stronghold, it now has a vibrant Chinese-American community as well, which means all sorts of things, we guess, but most important for our purposes now is that it means the existence of Bamboo Pavilion. This Sichaun restaurant does many things well (we love the dan dan noodles and the double cooked fish filet), but if you want something really spicy, get the cold tongue and tripe appetizer. It comes bathed in vibrant red chile oil (always a good sign!) and will get your mouth tingling in no time. Cool down with some delicious, unctuous tea-smoked duck.
6920 18th Avenue, Bensonhurst
Nashville Hot Chicken: Peaches Hothouse
We love pretty much all types of fried chicken, but the Nashville hot chicken at Peaches Hothouse holds a special (burning) place in our heart. You can order it at varying degrees of hotness, but who are you kidding here? Go all the way. Go for the crazy, stupid heat. Let all that cayenne do its magic on your mouth. There’ll be plenty of white bread on the side to soothe your fiery mouth. And then you can go back for more.
415 Tompkins Avenue, Bed-Stuy
Spicy Lamb Cumin Noodles: Xi’an Famous Foods
This is another dish you can order extra-spicy if you so choose. Do it! Or don’t. It will still be plenty spicy. Not only are these hand-ripped noodles doused with copious amounts of cumin, but they also have sichuan peppercorns aplenty, longhorn peppers, jalapeños, dried chile peppers, and house chile oil for that final extra kick. You will feel this dish for hours to come.
86 Beadel Street, East Williamsburg
Buffalo Wings: The Kettle Black
This beloved Bay Ridge spot claimed a place on our list of favorite chicken wings in Brooklyn, but beyond just being great, these wings are also damned spicy. The Buffalo wings are plenty spicy on their own, but order the Cajun (and, yes, they’re qualified as being “ragin'”) to double on the flavor and the heat. Plus, as an added bonus, Wednesday nights are “Wing Wednesdays,” meaning wings can be had for 50 cents a pop. Who knew searing pain could be so cheaply had?
8622 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
Jerk Chicken: Exquisite Delight
The jerk chicken at Exquisite Delight isn’t necessarily the hottest jerk chicken in Brooklyn. But it is one of the most delicately flavored, with tender meat (leg and thigh all the way!) and crisp, mahogany skin. And if you add some of the house-made hot sauce (conveniently located on top of the ordering counter, along with extra jerk sauce, BBQ sauce, mustard, and mango-pineapple sauce), then you’ll wind up with one of the spiciest dishes in Brooklyn, that still manages to retain its complex flavor profile. Cool down with a side of rice and peas doused in oxtail gravy.
2847 Church Avenue, Flatbush
Lamb Vindaloo: King of Tandoor
This classic Indian dish is known to be crazy hot, and still we order it. Why? Oh, have you not been paying attention? We like the pain. And the lamb vindaloo at King of Tandoor doesn’t disappoint. It’s rich and flavorful, redolent with that specific to lamb gaminess that we love, but it also brings the heat in a major way. Try it and find out for yourself.
600 Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Chong Qing Chicken: Grand Sichuan House
So the first time we ever had chong qing chicken was actually at Danny Bowein’s Mission Chinese pop-up at Frankie’s in Carroll Gardens and it kind of changed our lives. But that pop-up is now gone, and we’re ok with the loss because we just discovered Grand Sichuan House in Bay Ridge. Now, we know that this isn’t a new discovery. But it was new to us! And are we ever glad we found it. The chong qing chicken here is beautifully mouth-numbing and painfully addictive and we’re even fine with dealing with the R train to get our fix. So you know it has to be good.
8701 5th Avenue, Bay Ridge
Buka Sauce: Buka
What is buka sauce exactly? Are you sure you want to know? It will change your life, because soon you will be forever seeking out this sauce, a blend of burning hot habaneros, as well as green bell peppers, and a blend of dried Nigerian spices. The sauce itself is cooked till it scorches the bottom of its own pan, imparting a smokiness that only adds to its allure. You’ll soon want it on everything from meats to vegetables to rice, and it will never fail to ignite your taste buds.
946 Fulton Street, Clinton Hill
Nachos: Pork Slope
Yeah, we know. Nachos? How spicy can they even be? Well, at Pork Slope, thanks to a very heavy hand with the house-pickled jalapeños, the answer is very. Like, tear-inducing spicy. And the best part about these nachos is that every bite has some of that spice. This isn’t one of those situations where most of the platter is just full of bare chips. No, these chips are all spread out on a cafeteria-style tray so that each bite has the perfect blend of toppings, including those super spicy peppers.
247 5th Avenue, Park Slope
Papaya Pok Pok: Pok Pok Ny
We’ll admit it: this might be the dish that defeated us. We can’t manage to eat more than a few bites. It’s that spicy. We don’t know what Andy Ricker does with his papaya salad (other than adding weird and delightful whole tiny shrimp that give off a funky, fishy flavor that we love), but whatever it is? It burns like nothing else we’ve ever had. So enjoy this dish—and all the others—at your own peril. And just be sure to have plenty of alcohol handy to cool the burn. That’s what we do anyway, and it works for us.
117 Columbia Street, The Columbia Waterfront District
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen