Eat spicy food in hot weather — this advice seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
Actually it’s science.
When we consume spicy food, most of us experience situational gustatory sweating, which means the spicy food makes us begin perspiring, usually on the face. (If you’ve ever seen someone fan themselves with a napkin while eating hot wings, you understand.)
Sweating lowers body temperature because when it evaporates, it cools you down. But this is Charleston, and it’s here that this theory crumbles. This time of year, nothing is evaporating in this humidity.
In that case, I’m choosing to focus on the endorphins that are released when I dig into a plate of any of these spicy selections.
Those “feel good” hormones will make me forget how hot it is, or of writing the term “gustatory sweating,” if just for a moment.
In a restaurant full of spicy choices, this dish stands apart. Its combination of dried chiles, fermented chili paste, and garlic will linger on your taste buds, and in your mind, long after the meal ends.
Wilted kale, tofu and rice round out the dish, but they can’t do anything to slow this fire truck of flavor.
224 Rutledge Ave.
No fake bright red color here. This hot chicken is dark brick red with spice and vinegar, and underneath that layer of heat is juicy, fried deliciousness.
Post and Courier Food Editor Hanna Raskin documented the dish earlier this year and mentioned there was no way she would take out her contacts after eating it.
In my case, there’s no way I would wear them to begin with since my glasses will do a better job of shielding my occasional tears.
176 Line St.
Home Team gives us another poultry entry for the list, but in reality, it’s really about the death relish.
The smoked chicken wings are the best wings in town (I’m calling it) and adding death relish really sends these over the edge.
What is death relish, you ask? Why, an excellent combo of ghost, jalapeno and habanero peppers along with other ingredients that are hard to even consider through the barrage of peppers.
Beer or a milky beverage are necessary to cut the heat.
Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ
Three locations: West Ashley, downtown, Sullivan’s Island
You’ll be amazed that a salad could be this spicy when you order it Thai hot. The owners give you what you ask for, and this minced meat salad with onion, cilantro and fish sauce becomes unforgettable. It’s not the only dish to order here, but remember, if it’s truly spicy you seek, you have to ask for it.
4958 Centre Pointe Drive, No. 103, North Charleston
Broiled lamb and beef is a decadent sandwich combo to begin with, but the rich skewer served with pita bread on the side only gets better when you add a generous dollop of the house-made hot sauce. It’s available upon request, and its blend of chile, spices and even eggplant will make it hard to order without it.
920 Houston Northcutt Blvd., No. 2, Mount Pleasant
Vegan, creamy with coconut milk, and studded with potatoes, it’s just one of the spicy offerings at this spot on Center Street. The staff and the kitchen is small, and the menu does change, but this is a crowd favorite, so it seems to be a mainstay. Served with jasmine rice, it is fragrant with Indian spices and surprisingly filling, even without the addition of meat.
34 Center St., Folly Beach
Part of the challenge eating circuit (i.e., eat a 40-ounce steak in 40 minutes), you have to be at least 18 or have a legal guardian sign for you to order this spicy meal. Completing the challenge means consuming 10 progressively spicier tuna hand rolls in a specific order, although there is no clock to beat. Note that this dish is designed more for torture than for taste since the consensus is after a while, you can taste nothing but fire.
Ashley Crossing, 1975 Magwood Drive, Charleston