The Spiciest Restaurants in Los Angeles
Yunchuan Garden | Photo by Clarissa Wei
Spicy food is easy to come by in Los Angeles. There are such a variety of spices available, from the tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn to the elusive ghost chili. Here’s a tip: don’t wash it down with cold water. Water actually will spread the spice in your mouth and make the burning sensation worse. Yogurt, milk, or rice are the best pairings – if you can get your hands on them. Here are great places in Los Angeles to get your fix of super spicy dishes.
If you’re looking for a true homestyle meal, Apey Kade is the place. It’s a Sri Lankan eatery located on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana. Their claim to fame is their buffet, which rounds out to about $10 per person. If you’re ordering a la carte, do give the deviled chicken a try. It’s infused with curry leaves, a splattering of lime juice and of course, a liberal handful of fresh and dried chilies.
Bhanu's Indian Grocery & Cuisine
This restaurant specializes in Southern Indian fare and is owned by a Mr. Bedi and Bhanu, a brother and sister pair from Mumbai. They sell the world’s hottest pepper, the elusive ghost chili, which is 401.5 times spicier than Tabasco sauce. Beware. Though you can get it in different levels and in various dishes, it’s bound to make even the most diehard pepper enthusiasts tear up. You can customize your level of spice, but do approach with caution. Pair it with a tall glass of their cool, creamy mango lassi or a dollop of raita (cucumber yogurt).
Bull Demon King Cafe is hands down, the best place to get Taiwanese beef noodle soup in Los Angeles. They also have a spicy beef noodle soup challenge: finish within 30 minutes and you’ll get the entire bowl for free, a t-shirt, and your picture immortalized on the wall. The ratio of beef shanks to noodles is ideal. The broth is piquant and flavorful, and the stew is brewed for over 12 hours to achieve its earthy, strong flavor. Beware, pepper flakes are abundant.
Chengdu Taste is L.A.’s Sichuan sweetheart, with lines going out the door at nearly all times of the day. A standout dish is the water boiled fish: a flaky tilapia is bathed in a batch of chili oil with crushed garlic and chili peppers. The twice-cooked pork is also recommended - think of it as the Sichuan version of bacon, but the cut is softer and coated with a layer of hot chili oil.
Hunan Chilli King
If you walk by Hunan Chilli King on any given day, chances are you'll see a pile of chili peppers being laid outside to dry. As is typical of the Hunan province, spicy dishes are their specialty. The spicy sole is recommended - white fish filets are stir-fried with preserved greens and a generous handful of fresh rainbow chilies. The mala tofu is another great option - their version incorporates more chili sauce than anywhere else. Spice levels can be customized.
Jitlada is a must for Thai food aficionados and spice chasers. If you haven’t heard of the dynamite spice challenge, then you’re in for a treat. You choose your protein (chicken, fish, beef, tofu, etc.) and it’s paired with a spicy mint leaf sauce or a curry. According to their menu: “If you do not eat spicy food, do not order this. This is Real Chili, Real Spicy.” The Khua Kling Phat Tha Lung, a Southern Thai curry dish with shredded beef and a heaping of turmeric, is another one of their signature hot dishes. The heat might actually be unbearable.
Orochon’s ramen base is available in soy, miso or salt and served in one of seven levels of spiciness. Their signature dish is the Special #2, a bright red concoction unlike any ramen you’ve ever had before. According to the owners, the soup is cooked with 13 different spices. The SP2 Challenge - featured on an episode of Man vs. Food - challenges customers to finish a bowl of their spiciest ramen in 30 minutes or less. Succeed and you’ll win a spot on the “wall of bravery.”
Dry pots, which originate from the Sichuan province, are akin to hot pots. Various ingredients are cooked tableside in an iron pot, there is a base protein, and the rest of the ingredients are customizable. There’s no soup, just peppers and chili oil, and the condensed results are intense. In Chinese, dry pots are known as gan guo or malaxiangguo. The former literally means dry pot, but it's the latter translation that's more accurate: tongue-numbing fragrant pot. Everything seems to come out with at least a slight hue of red.
Ye Rustic Inn
Two words: suicide sauce. This gem in Los Feliz serves up decisively hot chicken wings, their signature dish. If you can’t take the heat, they have milder options, but give it a try before downgrading. The dive bar has a great selection of beers to wash it all down and a rocking jukebox to pair with your evening.
Yunchuan Garden in Monterey Park is the best place in Los Angeles to get Yunnan bites in Los Angeles. The spicy chicken cube platter is generously spiked with dried peppercorns and large chunks of chilies. The peppercorns, a Sichuan spice, gives a tongue-numbing, citrusy sensation. Tip: don’t eat the peppers directly, the chicken is already infused with spices.