For those who love spicy food, or are just in the mood to test their hot-pepper tolerance, we've got a list of capsaicin-laden dishes that serve up mouth-watering (and maybe eye-watering) flavor along with a serious dose of heat. For those not used to spicy foods, maybe keep some milk, salt, sugar, dark chocolate, beer, bread, marshmallows, or lemon and lime peels close at hand -- all foods that will help cool the tongue.
O! Wings Plus 10094 Page Avenue; 314-395-0180
Customers of O! Wings Plus choose their own sauce for chicken wings, strips and wraps, depending on the level of spiciness desired. The "Hot Mama!" sauce at O! Wings Plus might not be the spiciest on the menu, but it's just a small step down and the most popular. Its heat is tempered with honey and pineapple juice combined with a blend of gochujang(a Korean condiment made of fermented red chiles) and gochugaru (dried and ground red chile peppers), honey, pineapple juice, mayonnaise, habanero peppers and lemon juice. The hottest sauce on the menu is the "Beast Mode" which includes in its description, "Don't say we didn't warn you."
Pearl Café 8416 North Lindbergh Boulevard; 314-831-3701
All of the dishes at Pearl Café can be customized by level of spiciness by using a numbered scale of 0 (no spice) to 25. Or, if a customer is feeling particularly adventurous, they may enter the "King of Spice" challenge and try dishes of increasing hotness, in increments of 25, up to the maximum level 100. The first dish in the challenge, at level 25 on the scale, is the drunken noodles. Wide rice noodles are cooked in garlic, fresh Thai chile peppers, shrimp, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, onions, fresh Thai basil and green onions. To make the dish a 25, one ghost pepper is added.
Sen Thai Asian Bistro 1221 Locust Street #104; 314-436-3456
The green curry is the spiciest dish on the menu at Sen Thai Asian Bistro. It's made with green Thai chiles, which have a slightly sweet taste, coconut milk, basil, bell peppers and eggplant and seasoned with salt and sugar. It's served with Thai jasmine rice and either chicken, beef, shrimp, seafood or tofu. The dish is prepared with a medium level of heat, but you can up the ante to spicy, very spicy or "Thai hot."
Hiro Asian Kitchen 1405 Washington Avenue; 314-241-4476
Hiro Asian Kitchen offers Indonesian beef rending on its new fall menu. Beef is cooked for several hours in coconut milk and freshly ground spices -- ginger, galangal, turmeric leaves, lemon grass, garlic, shallot and chile peppers. The liquid eventually evaporates, followed by a frying process, resulting in a tender and richly spiced meat.
Sameem Afghan Restaurant 4341 Manchester Avenue; 314-534-9500
Sameem Afghan Restaurant's chicken karahi is a spicy dish made with dark and white chicken, green chiles, garlic, fresh ginger, turmeric, tomatoes, coriander, cloves and whole cumin seeds. This savory dish is served with chopped cilantro and either naan or basmati rice to soak up the heat -- medium spicy to hot, depending on preference.
Monsoon Vietnamese Bistro 14248 Manchester Road; 636-256-8838
Ga Xao Xa Ot is a traditional, sweet and spicy Vietnamese dish. Chicken is sautéed in chicken stock with garlic, chile pepper, lemongrass, shiitake mushrooms, carrot, bell peppers, fish sauce and sugar. The chicken absorbs the spices, caramelizes a bit in the sugar and is then served with rice.
West End Grill and Pub 354 North Boyle Avenue; 314-531-4607
The Thai-inspired green curry mussels at West End Grill and Pub is constructed of layers of flavors that result in a dish "greater than the sum of its ingredients," says owner Neill Costello. Fresh Prince Edward Island mussels are simmered in unsweetened coconut milk, white wine, green curry paste, garlic, cilantro pesto, jalapeno, red onion and fresh lime juice and served with extra sauce and buttery crostini for dipping.