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Insanely hot, but flavorful

For all the chili-head 'Hounds, what's the hottest dish you've found in the area? While pure heat is nice, please differentiate between those dishes that are also flavorful (if you can take the heat) and those that are just "heat masochist" exercises with no discernable flavor beyond "hot".

My initial votes - Szechuan Chili chicken at China Star (about equal parts breaded chicken cubes and red chilis)
Red Fish Curry at Bombay Peacock in Columbia (special ordered by a friend for a gathering of work associates)

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  1. "Native Thai" green curry chicken at Bankok Delight in Columbia, Ouch but good!

    1. Tom yum soup at Cafe Asia downtown (so hot the sympathetic waiter brought my girlfriend complimentary ice cream)
      Lamb vindaloo at Haandi in Falls Church

      1. Ah, but what KIND of hot? Different spices, different sensations (though they may all be called "hot").

        The Szechuan Chili Chicken at China Star, certainly - I have had the exact same thing at Peking Village (2962 Gallows Road - ask for the Chinese menu). That's "dried hot pepper hot."

        China Star Szechuan Green Beans (and a few other dishes) give you that "Szechuan Peppercorn hot" and it really really is hot, not just "gosh these peppercorns make my mouth tingle."

        TemptAsian Baby Wontons in Chili Oil (a slightly different, sorta vinegary recipe than in the past) is an unrelenting "chili oil hot" that goes right to the back of my throat and induces coughing fits - I have to be careful to eat it slow and sip carefully.

        Golden Dragon (I'm the only one who's ever mentioned it here, I think) in the Bradlee SS on King Street - Pork with Finger Hot Peppers (includes some barely-cooked asparagus, pork and of course fresh peppers) is pound-my-fist-on-the-table "fresh-pepper hot." Be aware that their more familiar dishes (Kung Pao and the like) can be just plain poor, but departures from the ordinary can be very good. Lunch is better than dinner.

        Sichuan Village (14005 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway Chantilly) Tofu and Fish Fillet in Very Hot Sauce is a glass pie plate full of tender white fish fillet chunks and soft tofu chunks in the hottest sauce I have ever eaten anywhere anytime on anything, and it's "multi kinds of hot", too hot to really analyze. I didn't like tofu before (too many hippie chicks offering tofu burgers in the 1960s, I guess) but in this case, the tofu was a blessed relief from the pain of the sauce. Wonderful! Try their Ants Climbing Trees - like the fish, almost enough for two, szechuan-peppercorny enough for anyone.

        And I'd better add my discovery of the week, Vit Goel (Lighthouse) Tofu in Annandale - about eight kinds of Soon dubu (tofu soup in a stone pot with this and that plus a raw egg) available in 5 heats, from none at all to "spicy spicy." I dropped back a step to "spicy" (that's just ONE "spicy") and it was a delight, "hot pepper paste hot", but I had to stop before I got to the bottom. Great stuff, but why did I do that to myself at 10am?

        2 Replies
        1. re: wayne keyser

          The Tofu and Fish Fillet in Very Hot Sauce is one of my favorite dishes around. The odd thing is that I really don't find myself too terribly affected by the heat of that dish. However, the Chongqin chicken dish at Sichuan Village really blows me away....but I love that too. Makes me wonder if people have varying sensitivities to different types of spicy heat...the heaps of chilis in the Chongqin chicken will raise quite a sweat on me, while the terrific sauce of the fish and tofu, while certainly plenty warm, doesn't hit me as hard as it seems to hit others. Maybe I'm just a freak. Both dishes are excellent though. Love that place.

          1. re: wayne keyser

            As to "What kind of hot?", I left the query deliberately vague, precisely to encourage posts like yours that go into different types of "heat", from chilis (dried, fresh, oil, paste) to wasabi/horseradish, ginger, mustard, Szechuan peppercorns, black pepper - or anything else that brings the heat, preferably balanced by other flavors.

            For me, one of my most memorable "stupid hot food machismo" experiences was eating a whole raw habanero. I had read about how hot they were (this was back when habaneros were still largley unknown), and in my ignorance, I thought "How hot can it be?" I had lined up bread and ice cream (starch and dairy to absorb the oils) and chomped. I still remember the wonderful flavor in those miliseconds before the heat hit. Of course, when it did hit, the sensation was like kissing a hot frying pan while somebody took a baseball bat to the back of my head, and I found myself unable to breath. My friend stood there laughing, though she finally paused and began to look worried "You aren't acting, are you..."

            After a couple of minutes of wheeezing and cramming handfuls of bread and ice cream into my mouth (at that point I had no time for utensils!), I finally gasped out one word


            I recovered, but as I said, I remember the flavor that went with the heat, and that's one of the reasons I also emphasized the flavor aspect, not just pure heat. These days when one can buy pure capsaicin (I hope I spelled that right), *any* idiot can make a dish that's too hot for any sane person to eat. It take talent to make a dish that's hot, but has complexity and depth of flavor to make it worthwhile.

          2. Uncle Brutha's has a hot sauce (I think it's No. 10) that is an excellent combination of heat and flavor. You can get it at Eastern Market or at their store a few doors down.

            1. I see a lot of posts about China Star. There are several restaurants in the Maryland-Virginia area called China Star. Which one has the special Szechuan menu everyone is talking about?

              2 Replies
              1. re: MartinDC

                The one most are referring to is in Fairfax. IIRC, the strip mall it's in is called the Fair City Mall, and it's on the north side of Little River Turnpike a mile or two outside the DC beltway. I'm sure somebody will post an address and phone number, and I know they have a web page.

                1. re: MartinDC

                  It's in Fair City Mall. CS is not in the main strip, but rather out "in the parking lot", close to 50/main st. Cinema Arts theater is the main strip: http://www.cinemaartstheatre.com/page...

                2. I haven't been in a while and the names of specific dishes escape me, but I would think you could find serious heat and flavor at Mandalay in Silver Spring. I've had chicken and catfish dishes in a tomato kinda sauce that packed pretty good heat.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MarkF

                    At Mandalay there is a tofu dish cooked with curry and hot peppers that is, well, hot. This isn't quite one-dimensional, but hot is definitely the dominant theme.

                    Better options would be pork with pickled mango or tofu with sour mustard. Order these spicy, and you will get a fair amount of hear with a lot of flavor; you can always order extra chili oil here if it isn't hot enough for you.

                    Route 66 potato chips come in a flavor called Mama Zuma's Revenge. Get the one in the red bag.

                  2. Warthog - the great, memorable moments of our life do not (as a rule) announce themselves in advance with trumpets and heralds. You were blessed with one that you actually saw coming (waaaaaay down the road).

                    Believe it or not, I envy you. But not enough to actually try it myself.

                    1. Anything at China Star that says numbing. It hot like I've never had hot. Spicy at china star is definitely doable but I can't od the numbing.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Soup

                        The numbing is caused by a different spice from hot chilis -- the Sichuan peppercorn.

                        1. re: alopez

                          Speaking of which - where can we get those around DC (NOVA preferred)?

                          1. re: Dennis S

                            I would think that the peppercorns would be available in any Asian market, of which there are dozens in NoVa. Have you looked?

                            I have a jar here that I bought in a local Asian grocery quite some time ago. I like to crack a few and press them into a steak before grilling.

                            1. re: MikeR

                              They are often labeled Chinese Prickly Ash and, as MartinDC discribes, should be dry roasted before being ground and added before, during or after cooking.

                              The unique sensation is dramatically experienced when one sips water immediately after enjoying a dish cooked with szechuan peppercornns, and the water feels as if it's being carbonated in your mouth.

                            2. re: Dennis S

                              Szechuan peppercorns were banned from import for several years because of a particular pest problem. Now, USDA has approved the import of peppercorns that are heat treated to kill the pest. So they've been available in asian markets for about a year now.

                              Interesting to note: usually, szechuan peppercorns are dry roasted in a skillet to release their fragrant flavors, but that is not necessary with the heat-treated peppercorns.

                              1. re: MartinDC

                                Thanks - I knew of the ban, but not the lift of it.

                                1. re: MartinDC

                                  Just a small elaboration...the presence of the citrus canker bacteria was the concern. This could damage citrus crops. A properly timed exposure to heat (160F) kills it. The Szechuan peppercorn isn't a real peppercorn, its the husk pod of a fruit.

                          2. One more dish I've recently had a couple times. The fish cakes at Ruan Thai. Maybe not insanely hot, but they have a kick and they're so good - fried up nice and the sauce that comes with it is great. I think it's #2 on the appetizer menu.