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Foods that pair surprisingly well with heat?

Talking spice (e.g. Scoville Scale), not temperature.

Some things we naturally associate with spiciness, like chicken (Vindaloo curry), or beef (Sichuan water boiled beef).

But are there foods that you have discovered that pair surprisingly well with hot spices -- be it a curry, or peppercorn, or chili, etc.?

For me:

- chili pepper flakes (the kind you get at pizza joints) on mango slices
- ground Sichuan peppercorn with Chinese salted plums
- Dill pickle spears with Chinese chili garlic sauce
- Raw (i.e. green) banana slices with Tobasco sauce


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  1. well, for chile- heads like you & me, most of these are probably normal :)

    - peanut butter with cayenne or chipotle
    - wasabi, curry, or any smoky pepper with chocolate
    - blueberry-chipotle sauce or chutney with vanilla or chocolate ice cream
    - peppercorns with pears (poached, cobbler, sorbet...)

    2 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Blueberries with peppercorns are amazing to.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        One of my guilty pleasures is to take equal parts raw garlic, fresh young ginger, horseradish root, and grind it up into a nice paste using my mortar and pestle, and then spread it liberally over a nicely steamed hot dog!

        My mouth is watering even as I type this ...

      2. i can't think of any that don't

        1. Not surprising but sweets like ice cream and chocolate, anything chocolate based. Candied bacon. Jam print cookies and jalapeno jelly. I'm surprised there isn't a spicy milk based drink.

          Bananas with tabasco? Really?

          1. Fried green tomatoes and Tabasco.

            A recent post here mentioned a chicken with fig puree dish that'd definitely do better with some hot pepper action. I also make an onion relish with sugar and vinegar; some of the jars get hot pepper flakes, those for the squeamish do not.

            The wasabi bloody mary at our restaurant has made it a very, very popular favorite. Some even ask me to put extra Tabasco *and* Sriracha sauce into the drink.

            Peaches, red onions and tomatoes will delight any pepper-head if you make a raspberry vinaigrette for the salad and then add your favorite "hottie."

            Good luck!

            1. I am not a chili head; I dislike spicy hot food as my system cannot take it. I was once served in a restaurant Eggs Benedict dusted with cayenne. I could have ripped off the head of whoever in the kitchen was responsible for that. This was at a hotel in Berkeley, California, not some Bobby Flay place where chili goes indiscriminately on everything.

              The reason I mention this at all is that I was wondering if the chili heads here consider this acceptable - cayenne on Eggs Benedict. Does it not make sense to have the customer add the stuff himself?

              12 Replies
              1. re: souschef

                i'm probably not the right person to answer this because i *always* put hot sauce on my eggs - scrambled, hard-cooked, frittata...i even spike egg salad with some sort of chile sauce or powder. but i don't eat eggs benedict, so perhaps bennie fans will chime in...

                1. re: souschef

                  There's often a dusting of paprika on eggs bene for color...maybe someone got the two mixed up?

                  1. re: akq

                    I have never seen paprika on EB.

                    1. re: akq


                      Don't you mean deviled eggs (as opposed to eggs benedict)? Like souschef, I've never really heard or seen paprika on eggs benedict.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Actually, quite a few recipes in *older* cookbooks include a paprika garnish. This seems to have fallen out of favor.

                        1. re: onceadaylily

                          Interesting. Do you know why? Was it really for the color?

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Funny that I called it a garnish. Most of the paprika that's available in grocery stores is the stale, sweeter stuff (not the good smoked), so I would think it had to be for the color. :) I have a container of the cheap Spanish stuff, and it just tastes like barely-flavored dust. I never recalled seeing anything better in kitchens in my hometown. I guess that's why I called it a garnish, instead of seeing it as a more muscular component of the dish.

                            Maybe it fell out of favor when cooks/cookbook writers admitted to themselves that much of the US wasn't likely to have a decent smoked Hungarian paprika on hand, and the an inferior version of the spice just detracted from the dish (a really good poached egg needs little help).

                            Please note I could be wrong about everything (except the once-popular inclusion of paprika in this dish).

                            1. re: onceadaylily

                              "Please note I could be wrong about everything ..."

                              I think I'm going to change my Chowound handle to that!

                              Thanks for the history lesson, nonetheless.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                I ducked away to do a bit of actual research, if one can claim an internet search to be such. Many recipes from the fifties really do advise a paprika garnish *for color*, with a few Hungarian recipes actually advocating (gasp) cooking with it.

                                And *thank you*, that was fun to read about.

                                1. re: onceadaylily

                                  Perhaps I lost something somewhere - we are still talking paprika on Eggs Benedict, correct? I am beginning to actually think that the concept of dusting the dish with some good pimenton is interesting and would be tasty. The spice would work to balance the fatty richness of the Hollandaise, as would the smokiness. That smokiness would also work with the ham. (As an aside, paprika is one of those ingredients where the quality of the product, Spanish or Hungarian, makes a very significant difference)

                                  That being said, though, I am confused as to how one would cook with the paprika. In the Hollandaise? I can't imagine pink Hollandaise as being too appetizing. Besides, wouldn't it then be Hungaraise sauce???

                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    You are correct in that a *good* paprika would do nicely in that application. When I spoke of cooking with paprika, it was in reference to Hungarian cooking I had turned up in my research concerning early american use of paprika. By cooked, I meant its use in meat dishes and stews.

                                    Sorry for the confusion.

                    2. re: souschef

                      It's not that crazy - most recipes for hollandaise sauce (a critical ingredient in Eggs Benedict) call for a pinch of cayenne. Maybe the chef was just trying to deconstruct the dish a bit.

                    3. I am not a chile head, but I do enjoy hot food when it makes sense. So you won't find me eating pink peppercorns on mango, but, I recently made some chocolate sorbet. I added some ground ancho and cayenne peppers and it was sensational.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: smtucker

                        Chocolate and cayenne are wonderful. Jeni's splendid ice cream produces Queen City Cayenne, which is chocolate ice cream with cayenne.....absolutely incredible.

                      2. The last restaurant I worked in put cayenne & hot sauce in the hollandaise for eggs ben....

                        Things that pair well with heat: chocolate, ice cream, fruit cobblers, puddings, cakes, granita or sorbet (chiles/peppers in the mixture before freezing), spicy lemonade

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Cherylptw

                          I know this isn't really earth-shattering, but I love fresh fruit with chili powder on it, as it is served on the street in Mexico, or in India. Mango, watermelon, pineapple, melon, even apples -- all of them taste better with some heat and some salt, in my opinion!

                          I also really like scrambled eggs with curry and spices/sliced chilis.

                          1. re: anakalia

                            Reminds me - I was served a snack at the home of a good friend who is Indian, and as it was way too hot for me I asked his wife for some yogourt to tame the heat. As the yogourt had no such effect I asked her if she had done anything to the yogourt, to which she replied, "Plain yogourt has no taste, so to give it taste I added some chili". Talk about people unclear on the concept ! I ended up not eating the snack.

                            1. re: souschef

                              My dentist is Hindi and hails from the south of India. Her husband works for the Hilton chain, and is a very, very good cook.

                              Visits to their home include many similar experiences to what you describe above. Even their (now 12-year old) child eats spicier foods than I can tolerate, as a matter of course.

                              1. re: shaogo

                                I live to find something hot to go on food. Some of the few I have tried:

                                Sriracha on fresh mango.

                                Cayenne pepper or Chili con limen on cantaloupe

                                Grilled plantains with chipotle, cayenne mayo

                                Chicken salad with wasabi

                                Tabasco on fried eggs

                                Tabasco on tuna fish sandwiches.

                                Yesterday I ate a turkey sub and put Sriracha on it and it was really good.

                                I put Jalapeno in tuna salad sometimes.

                                Cayenne pepper on chocolate ice cream. Sounds odd but is really good.

                                I put wasabi in ranch dressing for salads, vegetable plates, etc...

                                I also made up a sauce to put on bison burgers out of mayo, ketchup and a lot of cayenne pepper. Tastes great!

                                I could go on and on with this subject. Look forward to finding some new stuff to try. Great thread!

                                1. re: shaogo

                                  When my friend and his wife come over to dinner one of the first things he asks for is Tabasco. I once mentioned to them that they would never get to taste the best stuff that I make as I would not want them destroying my careful balance of flavours by adding Tabasco to it. He admitted to me that all the Tabasco provides is the sensation of heat; it adds no flavour. I really cannot understand the love of that extreme heat in the mouth, and really hate the tingle of cayenne on the lips.

                                  Sorry shaogo, but for me "very very good cook" and hot food are mutually exclusive. I have lots of Indian friends and have suffered way too much.

                                  I should probably butt out of this discussion now as I hate to add negativity.

                          2. Spice, in the sense of capsaicin, and sweet are natural pairings. Sugars are the natural foil to heat. Hell, the Scoville Scale is based upon the ability of sugar to neutralize spice.

                            When you think about it some of the combinations that are practically taken for granted are heat and sweet combos. I mean, seafood’s inherent sweetness is commonly complimented by heat of one type or another – wasabi, cocktail sauce, tobasco, blackening, etc. Think sauces – what is salsa but sweet tomato and spicy jalapeno? Barbecue sauce, in fact barbecue in general, is based upon a sugar chile combination. Blue cheese and Buffalo sauce, etc., etc. To me, this is why chile powder makes little sense on Eggs Benedict – no sweet, but paprika is a staple on Deviled Eggs (commercial mayonnaise is full of sugar).

                            I suppose it’s clear that I tend to think of food combinations generally – teach a man to fish and all that. Nevertheless, I submit that togarashi powder on watermelon is a pretty great combination and in my fridge I have a jar of mangos pickled in a curry-type mixture that’s a deliciously odd treat. Similarly, many of the submissions above provide wonderful specific examples that display the potential for combining flavors on multiple levels - specific examples I look forward to trying (bananas and hot sauce!!) . . . Ahhh, ya gotta love food.

                            1. I talked about this on another thread. I went through a cream pie phase, and one day my boyfriend begged for me to make a pineapple cream with cayenne. I wasn't very impressed by it, but he loved it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: onceadaylily

                                A local "gourmet popsicle" shop makes a pinapple-chili flake version that is my idea of popsicle perfection.