Did you know that Sunday, January 16, is International Hot & Spicy Food Day? Look at it this way: It's definitely not the stupidest of the arbitrary food days/months (I mean, January 16 is also National Fig Newton Day...) and you can use it as an excuse to pop some Pepcid and indulge your spicy tooth.
Personally, my sweet tooth is very underdeveloped. Give me some spicy and/or crunchy food any day of the week. That's why my first suggestion for celebrating International Hot & Spicy Food Day takes us to Toreore, the Korean fried chicken stand at the food court inside Super H Mart (1302 Blalock, 713-468-0606). Order the No. 6 sweet and spicy chicken here and beware: When the sign at the stall says it's hot, they really do mean it. I dare you to make your way through an entire box.
If you're still up for more spice after that, read on.
London Sizzler's (6690 Southwest Freeway, 713-783-2754) name is almost a warning in and of itself. Yes, it's slightly hybridized British-Indian food, but that doesn't make it any less fiery. Order the garlic bullet naan and dip it in the spicy mint chutney for a one-two punch. Even simple samosas shine with a fiery blaze here. If you can handle the heat here, then you're ready to step up to places like nearby Shri Balaji Bhavan and Udipi.
For sheer heat levels, Thai cooking easily rivals Indian cuisine. Try Vieng Thai (6929 Long Point, 713-688-9910), an old favorite, for curries -- green and panang, but not so much the massamun -- that will make you break a sweat. If you want something a bit milder, try the tom kha gai soup or the spicy but fresh som tum salad.
If you're in the mood to try something different, African cuisine holds some real treasures. Order the kita fir-fir and a bowl of foul for a super-spicy Ethiopian breakfast at Sheba Cafe (6521 Bissonnet, 713-272-7770). And if it gets too hot, you can cool it off with some vinegary injera bread and a glass of tea.
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Not far away, Finger Licking Bukateria (9817 Bissonnet, 713-270-7070) serves a pepper soup that's popular with Nigerians looking for a taste of home. To western palates, it tastes almost like a primordial gumbo, with all the spice and flavor that comes with a bowl fo the Cajun favorite. Be warned: Your nose will run like a faucet. Bring Kleenex. (I am not kidding.)
Where will you be celebrating International Hot & Spicy Food Day?