Spicy food is enjoyed by many cultures around the world. Some countries, like India, have become famous for how much they enjoy the heat. Many may not know that spiciness can be rated on what is known as the Scoville Scale. The hotter something is, the higher its Scoville rating.

The scale ranges from zero and increases all the way up to 16 million, which is pure capsaicin, or the chemical that causes the spicy flavor, also used in pepper spray. Pepperoncini peppers reach around 300, and jalapeno peppers can hit up to 5,000. If you think you can handle the heat, check out these five notoriously spicy foods from around the world.


Photo of bowls of kimchi
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Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made of salted and fermented vegetables. There are many different kinds of kimchi, but most involve a chili powder and garlic combination that give it some heat. Some variations include hotter ingredients such as habanero or even ghost peppers. Cabbage and radishes are the most common vegetables used in kimchi.

Originally, kimchi was a way to preserve food. Vegetables were put in a jar with brining salt and other seasonings and buried in the ground to prevent freezing in the winter and heat in the summer. Early kimchi was not spicy, but as trade in Korea increased, hot peppers forever made their way into the Kimchi recipe.


Photo of a bowl of phaal curry
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Phaal is a British-Asian curry that gained popularity in British-Bangladeshi restaurants throughout the UK. It is a thick, tomato-based curry that is commonly referred to as the hottest curry in the world. What gives the dish its heat? While most curry recipes call for dried red pepper, phaal requires much hotter peppers, such as ghost peppers. Some variations of the recipe can reach 2.2 million on the Scoville scale! Chefs commonly wear gas masks when preparing plates so they do not breathe in the fumes and burn their nasal passages or lungs.

It is so spicy that many restaurants have phaal challenges. Anyone who can finish the chef's spiciest dishes get prizes such as t-shirts or free beer.


Photo of vindaloo meat in a red sauce
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Hailing from a country that loves spicy food, vindaloo is a popular Indian dish that involves marinating meat in vinegar, wine, and spices (chili peppers) and then topping it with even more spices before serving. The most common meat for vindaloo is pork, but any meat will do.

The original recipe for vindaloo comes from the Portuguese carne de vinha d’alhous. When Portuguese sailors came to India, the local chefs took the recipe and added their own local flavor to create the modern version of vindaloo that is known and loved throughout the world.

Papa a la Huancaína

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Papa a la huancaína is a popular appetizer from Peru that consists of yellow potatoes topped with a creamy sauce. It is usually served cold over lettuce with black olives and hardboiled egg. While it may not look like it would be spicy, traditional ingredients call for yellow Peruvian peppers, which can reach as high as 50,000 on the Scoville scale. Don’t let its appearance fool you. Papa a la huancaína is one of the spicier dishes on this list.

Nua Pad Prik

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Nua pad prik is often translated as fried hot and spicy meat. Hailing from Thailand, this popular spicy dish consists of beef fried with vegetables, chilis, and herbs. Traditional recipes use the bird’s eye chili, which ranks around 50,000 on the Scoville scale, 10 times hotter than a jalapeño. It is one of the easier dishes to make. Just mix all the ingredients in a pan and fry it up.

Feeling the Heat

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Are your taste buds on fire? Spicy recipes can be made to suit any palate. They can have more or less heat depending on the peppers that you choose. If you are feeling more adventurous, stick to the traditional recipes and experience these dishes the way they were meant to be.