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7 Spiciest Dishes in Chicago

Ramen, wings and curries that truly turn up the heat
September 29, 2015
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by Sarah Freeman

There are a lot of masochists out there willing to put their tastebuds on the line to take on the spiciest dishes around. Chef Tim Hockett has seen this firsthand. He is the creator of M Burger’s off-menu Hurt Burger (pictured below), a beef patty topped with spicy BBQ sauce and pepper jack cheese. It’s served at a mild “first-degree,” medium “second-degree” or searing “third-degree” hurt-level. The heat comes from a secret spice.

"I can remember one of the first times we ever served the burger,” Hockett says. “A young man came into our Watertower location with his girlfriend and encouraged her to try the spiciest third-degree Hurt Burger. She opted for the milder first-degree version, and he started bragging about how he always gets a third-degree, and how that burger doesn't even quite make him sweat. I mentioned to him that we can turn up the heat quite a bit if he wanted...and thus the ‘nth’ degree was created. We put a little bit more of our secret spice on the burger, and then all enjoyed watching the now not-so-cocky young man sweat a bit as he tried not to cry."

This hurt is just a pinch compared to the XXX wings (pictured at page top) at Jake Melnick’s, which are coasted in a mix of habanero, ghost pepper and scorpion peppers. There are six to an order, and they're served with a choice of cooling agents — or for a challenge without assistance to fan the flames. Challengers are given a bell that — once rung — signals defeat to the fiery wings, and they're brought milk, oranges and ice cream to cool them down. “People who eat the XXX wings go into food shock instead of a food coma,” chef Nick Santangelo says. “If you’ve never seen a face melt, stop by Jake Melnick’s, watch someone eat the XXX wings and that will change.”

A similar spice blend is used to spike the five-spice glaze of Glazed & Infused’s “World’s Spiciest Donut.” The Bismarck is filled with raspberry jam that's infused with scorpion chile — one of the world’s top 10 spiciest chilies with 500,000 Scoville Heat Units. The tear-jerking, sweat-inducing donut is then covered in cinnamon glaze that is kicked up with habanero, scorpion, Carolina Reaper and Red Savina peppers. And just to top it off, there's one final knockout punch: a chocolate-dipped habanero pepper.

If a spicy donut seems too over-the-top, then stick to one of the more classic hot-hot-hot dishes. The Kanabo spice ramen at High Five Ramen takes traditional tonkotsu ramen and turns it into overdrive with an extra dose of “face-numbing, tear-jerking, belly-warming, unbearable spice.” The menu warns that the “Kanabo style is too spicy for most to enjoy. Please don’t order without careful consideration.” Strings also issues warnings when ordering its Jigoku, or “hell,” ramen. Especially those who take on the hottest — level five — which is made with red chile, Sichuan chile bean sauce, Thai chile, Piquin chile, ghost pepper and scorpion pepper.

Strings’ chef and owner Kee Chan explains the Buddhist story of hell that inspired the ramen of the same name. In Japanese mythology, hell is divided into eight levels. In each level, different types of punishments await, including tongue ripping, eye gouging, teeth extraction, heart digging, disemboweling, skinning and pouring boiling liquids down sinners' throats. The latter is reminiscent of the ramen. Every ingredient in the bowl also has a meaning, such as the fried pork skin, which symbolizes human skin burnt in oil. Yum.

One can also experience ramen hell (or get better acquainted with the devil himself) via Fat Rice’s Diablo curry stew. This traditional Eurasian holiday stew is loaded with chicken, char siu, fried po-bolacho pork chop as well as more mustard seed and scorpion pepper than a mouth is designed to handle. Sweet pickles cut some of the heat, but not before it triggers a serious case of the sweats. The devil also makes an appearance at Big G’s. There, the Dance with El Diablo pizza is covered in spicy marinara, chicken marinated in Valentina Mexican hot sauce, jalapeño Havarti cheese, Diablo chipotle sauce, and grilled jalapeño and habanero peppers.

spicy food