Spice addicts are a strange species: celebrating a food's ability to cause pain, chasing an endorphin rush accompanied by sweat, tears, and colon spasms. When>"/>
Spice addicts are a strange species: celebrating a food's ability to cause pain, chasing an endorphin rush accompanied by sweat, tears, and colon spasms. When talking about their meals, pepperheads sound more like marathoners than gourmands. This week's top 5 is for Seattle's culinary masochists. If you eat all of these dishes on one day, send me a copy of the bill from your GI specialist and I'll be happy to post it here.
Runner Up: Man sauce, Holy Smoke stand, Safeco Field, and Dixie's BBQ, Bellevue.
As the stand's sign says, "Have you met The Man?" Well, why does being a man involve doubling over in cramps after tearing into smoky animal flesh? Why can't being a man involve hugging and cupcakes? We're not on a vision quest here or a rite of puberty. We're just trying to eat some ribs.
5. Spicy Broccoli (5 stars), Thai Tom, 4543 University Way N.E.
Like most Thai restaurants in the area, when you order at this beloved restaurant on the Ave. you specify the spice level you want on a scale of one to five. Thai Thom's five-star food has been punishing daredevils for years now, and thousands of students have figured out that the post-sweat rush rivals D-grade ecstasy. The most alarming thing about five-star spicy broccoli is that it's served directly over rice. Instead of using the bland rice to recover from the pain, you're forced to eat grains saturated in chile-spiked sauce, making it the spiciest part of the meal.
Both of these Trinidadan restaurants serve a tiny bowl of yellow puree on the side. While red is usually the danger color most of us associate with capsaicin fire, the yellow Scotch bonnet pepper (habanero) used in this sauce is one of the hottest chiles on the Scoville heat scale -- and here it's undiluted, pureed only with a little vinegar. You measure out the sauce by drops, and notice the appeal of the chile's waxy, fruity flavor a half-second before the pain sets in. It's sort of like walking outside right now and noticing the crisp smell of the air before the searing cold causes all the muscles in your face to seize up.
3. Spicy broth, Little Hot Pot, 15920 N.E. 8th St., Bellevue, (425) 562-8118.
Whereas most of the other dishes in this list take their fire from hot peppers, chiles aren't the only bringer of painful heat. In fact, I'd dare say this broth -- one of two broths available at the Mongolian hot pot chain -- is more dangerous than the bright-red Szechuan hot pot from Szechuan Chef or Seven Stars Pepper. This broth's heat comes from a combination of bright-red chile oil and other peppers (unnamed, but probably black and long peppercorns). Here the spice scale is 1 to 10. Order above a 5 and you'll be coughing and wheezing, feeling the peppers rasp your tonsils and upper trachea. It's all in the name of good health, the waitress will tell you, promising no gastric distress afterward. (She's almost telling the truth.)
2. Swimming Fire Fish, Bamboo Garden, 202 106th Pl. N.E., Bellevue, (425) 688-7991. Newcomer Spiced: Truly Chinese Cuisine has been drawing the crowds for intestines, frog, and lamb simmered in cups of chile oil, but the food at Bellevue's first Sichuan restaurant actually has a little more nuance, and for the better. In one of Bamboo Garden's spiciest dishes, fillets of poached fish, cabbage, and bean sprouts lurk under the surface of a giant bowl of red oil; even once you shake off the extra drops, enough clings to the meat to fill your mouth with the buzz of Sichuan peppercorns, the hot glow of chiles, and the vivid aromas of garlic and Chinese celery.
Credit: Bamboo Garden Restaurant
1. 7 Alarm Wing, Wing Dome, 7818 Greenwood Ave. N., 706-4036.
Wing Dome gives its customers a choice of six spice levels for its Buffalo wings, which you can order by the five-pack or the flock. Then there's the "7 alarm" sauce. You have to order these special wings by the piece (reminding us here at Voracious of Chris Rock in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka"). Nothing looks more ludicrous on a plate than a single chicken wing and a celery stick, but the joke's on you. The tomato-based sauce is chunky with coarsely ground habanero peppers. You'll be gulping down the beer seconds after taking a bite, feeling the contours of the burn on your cheeks wherever the sauce splashed when you bit in. Wing Dome advertises on the menu, "Eat seven 7 Alarm Wings in seven minutes with no beverages and get a 7 Deadly Wing Challenge tee shirt and your face on the Challenge Wall!" Good luck, there, cowboy.