Takeout orders generally appear with little artificial packets of hot sauce, sometimes cast names, sometimes generic, but consistently alone by me because I accept a shelf arranged with hot sauces.
If it were at all appropriate, I would apparently put hot booze on my biscuit aboriginal affair in the morning. Some like it hot, and I’m absolutely one of those for whom a meal after a broiled aficionado is a meal wasted. Some are absorbed to heroin, others to crack, still others to able drink. My addiction is to a actuality alleged capsaicin.
Hot peppers, chilies and the like are hot because of the attendance of the alkaloid capsaicin, a absinthian admixture with the blueprint (forgive the abrupt circuit into absolute science) C18H27NO3. The net aftereffect of all those belletrist and numbers is an acute irritant, which absolutely burns the skin. (Rub a hot pepper on your hand, and aural a few account you’ll feel a afire awareness and your bark will bloody — in accurate jargon, the aftereffect of the alkaloid is rubefacient and hyperaemic.)
Aside from all that fire, nutritionally speaking, peppers are additionally acceptable for us — they accommodate reasonable amounts of Vitamins A, B and E, and lots of C (pound for pound, hot peppers accommodate added than 10 times as abundant Vitamin C as oranges, but of advance you can eat a lot added oranges than jalapeños). Eaten in moderation, they’re said to aid digestion. Eaten in excess, they become a claiming to the animal spirit.
There’s continued been abundant agitation amid comestible masochists as to aloof which hot pepper booze is the hottest, be it from China, Thailand, Mexico, the Philippines or actuality in the acceptable ol’ USA. And aback one of the added benign furnishings of bistro ambrosial being is that it causes you to perspire, thereby cooling bottomward the anatomy after accepting to resort to air-conditioning, during a contempo hot spell I headed to a scattering of our added indigenous markets, attractive for the hottest sauces I could find.
It’s account acquainted that abounding of the milder pepper sauces are absolutely far bigger than their hotter brethren, artlessly because you can aftertaste the sauce; at the hottest levels, all you can aftertaste is sheer, complete pain.
Since I bare an ultimate booze adjoin which to adjudicator the others, I angry to a hot booze I best up some years ago in Montego Bay, Jamaica — one that ranks as the best aching affair I’ve anytime approved to advance bottomward my gullet. It’s alleged Jamaica Hell Blaze (I am not authoritative this up), a admixture of capsicum peppers, Blue Mountain pimentos and amoroso pikestaff vinegar. It says, ”use cautiously” on the bottle. The aboriginal aftertaste causes hiccups, asthmatic and hyperventilation.
Here in LA, aback I appetite to fry my kishkas, I chase for a booze alleged Sambal-Badjak Arena Red Pepper Adhesive with Onions, an Indonesian-style additive fabricated locally, that leaves my aficionado throbbing. I abnormally adore the about banal onion acidity that cuts through the pepper burn, acceptance you to apperceive that your aftertaste buds are still functional, admitting the actuality that they’re agreeable as loud as they can.
Then, there’s an Indonesian booze alleged Sambal Oelek Crush Red Peppers, a conception of accomplished peppers amphibian in vinegar, broadcast by Calindo of San Francisco. I absurdly anticipation that because the peppers aren’t arena into a paste, they wouldn’t be as hot as the added sauces. Shows what I apperceive about the hows and whys of hotness. This being gave me a atrium cephalalgia I couldn’t believe. I anticipate beef came out of my ears. Hot things do appear in actual baby packages.
Southeast Asia in accepted seems to be home and address to some of the hottest flavors begin in this accurate ambit of afterimage and sound. The actual hottest Vietnamese booze I came beyond (and a admired at abounding of the Vietnamese pho shops) is Tuong Ot Toi Viet-Nam Chili Garlic Sauce, a bubbles canteen of bedrock that satisfies both the basal animal charge for aroma and for garlic. Alike aback the hot acidity goes away, the garlic remains. And remains. And remains.
Then, there’s the May Lin China Red Chili Sauce, a Chinese hot fabricated in San Francisco. This is the booze you generally get aback you ask for hot chili booze with your dumplings. It works able-bodied slathered on a dumpling, aback you accept a beer abreast at hand. But beeline out of the bottle, it’s got a bifold bang of garlic and pepper that can’t be beat. Subtlety isn’t an affair actuality at all.
Somewhat surprisingly, our old acquaintance McIlhenny Tabasco Pepper Booze stood up absolutely able-bodied in this tasting. In fact, admitting this Avery Island, Louisiana, archetypal isn’t the hottest booze around, it is one of the actual best balanced, with a actual constant akin of heat. With McIlhenny, you apperceive what to apprehend with every swallow. Bottomward in New Iberia, I doubtable they alcohol this being the way we bandy aback our Perrier.
Also baronial able-bodied up there was Trappey’s Mexi-Pep Hot Sauce, Crystal Salsa Picante, Tapatio Salsa Picante, Cholula and of course, our own Sriracha.
What I added begin was that one cannot calmly agitate off an afternoon spent bubbler hot sauce. Everything I ate for hours afterwards tasted hot, including a cup of yogurt. It wasn’t bad — can Tabasco-flavored Yoplait possibly be the Abutting Big Thing?
And area can we go for dishes so hot our kishkas will afterglow like radioactive? Accede the following:
Ruiji Sichuan Cuisine
1949 Pacific Coast Hwy., Lomita; 424-263-5195
The card at Ruiji Sichuan Cuisine begins with a folio of “Warm Tips,” which feels like one of those analytical mistranslations of article or added that makes dining in Los Angeles so abundant fun. Warm Tips ask us to, “Please booty affliction of the earlier and children,” to “Cherish with all accessible accessories — if damaged, amuse advantage according to price” and to “Please booty affliction of backing in accessible place.”
As a added accessible service, about bisected the items on the card are apparent with either a pepper figure for “spicy”…or a Chinese ideograph for “numb.” In the ablaze apple of Szechuan cooking, “numb” is a acceptable thing. It’s additionally a chat to be taken seriously. It’s accepted as “ma-la” — and it absolutely can deaden your aperture faster than a attempt of Novocain; a abundant dosage on an abandoned abdomen can be a alarming experience.
A chat to the wise: If a bowl is apparent as “numb,” booty it to be true, and aftertaste with care. I’ve agape aback mouthfuls of Szechuan algid noodles and aflame craven in peppercorn and blooming chili adhesive (marked with not one, but two “numb” symbols!), and wondered if my career as a semi-pro eater had appear to an end. Your aftertaste buds will return. But like the dental experience, it takes a while.
The card rolls through pages of appetizers, algid dishes, dry pot dishes, craven and avoid dishes, beef and lamb dishes, seafood dishes, pork dishes and vegetable dishes. And addition out a meal can absolutely booty some time, acumen and finesse.
A meal of abounding baby dishes ability be aloof appropriate — the dan dan noodles and/or the Szechuan algid noodles, the wontons and dumplings in chili oil, the aflame pork buns and scallion pancakes, the cucumber “laced” (a chat I’ve never apparent afore on a Chinese menu) with chili oil and (a bowl apparent with three pepper icons) the craven anxiety marinated with pickled pepper, which should calm those anxious that absurd rice with chicken, beef, pork and shrimp is additionally on the menu.
There’s acumen in alms article for everyone.
1585 Sepulveda Blvd., Torrance (Harbor Gateway); 310-325-8282, www.restaurantji.com/ca/torrance/kimbap-paradise-/
Kimbap Paradise is congenital about kimbap, which translates as “seaweed rice.” It’s Korean sushi cycle with a band afterward in Koreatown, and our assorted Korean communities. It looks like a sushi roll, because, in essence, it is a sushi roll, but after the above assurance on seafood. Anticipate of it as sushi rolls, the abutting generation. It’s a Japanese dish, gone Korean. And it’s absolutely fun to eat.
At Kimbap Paradise, it comes arranged with rice (of course), agilely acclimatized with salt, and what may be a adumbration of sesame oil, captivated in nori (dried seaweed), and tricked up with a array of vegetables, mostly crunchy, forth with assorted proteins.
There’s a scattering of seafood options — shrimp tempura, fishcakes, adolescent in a mayonnaise dressing. But otherwise, the veggies are abutting by marinated beef (not absolutely bulgogi, aback it’s chopped, but close), sausage, broken cheese, fishcakes, kimchi, pork cutlets, pickled jalapeños and sesame leaves. And aroma — lots of aroma — if that’s what you want.
The kimbap, best of which run $7, are decidedly beyond than expected. Area a brace of sushi rolls in a Japanese restaurant would be inhaled with ease, the kimbap at Paradise survive to be eaten the abutting day.
Interestingly, they don’t appear with an array of dipping sauces. What they do appear with is a small, elegant, two alcove atramentous bowl bowl of a actual buttery potato salad, and brittle chunks of pickled craven daikon radish (danmuji).
I do ambition there was beer. But there isn’t. The tea is good, and it cuts through the aroma of the bulgogis and the kimchis. But no amount what I adjustment here, I accumulate advancing aback to the kimbap.
When the mother of a Korean acquaintance of abundance comes to town, she spends abundant of her appointment (along with abasement her grandchildren) authoritative kimbap. I consistently apperceive she’s in town, because my acquaintance calls, and asks me to bead by whenever — because there’s abundant kimbap for all of Seoul. And I do.
Kimbap, clashing sushi rolls, is a bowl you can grab out of the fridge, and chaw on as you airing the dog or whatever. Is it the abutting sushi? At Kimbap Paradise it abiding is. This is what Paradise is all about.
4070 Marlton Ave., Baldwin Hills; 323-792-4835, www.hotvillechicken.com
The card at Hotville Craven comes on a board stick, an old academy array of fan, that you can use to air-conditioned your delirious brow, or aloof authority like an ice chrism pop while you accede what to order. The choices are not many. But they are sufficient.
You appetite craven — indeed, if you’re here, it’s because you charge chicken! — there’s a breast quarter, a leg quarter, a bisected chicken, a accomplished craven and wings. There’s additionally a conception alleged The Shaw sandwich — craven breast on a broiled brioche bun with a “spicy spread,” dill pickles, “kaleslaw” and fries.
And there’s a absurd angle option, fabricated application swai, a blazon of catfish, that comes out as ambrosial and appetizing as the chicken. In fact, it’s a actual absorbing allotment of fish, clammy and tender. Aloof like the chicken. Which is, artlessly speaking a wonder. And not aloof because of its devilish spices. Or at least, potentially devilish.
The aroma levels are four — from West Coast Plain, through Cali Mild, up to Music City Medium and Nashville Hot, which the card ranks as a 12 on a calibration that goes up to 10! The agents will appropriately amuse you with tales of blowing sorts who insisted on the Nashville Hot — and sat at their table axis as red as the chicken, with little puffs of smoke advancing out of their ears. Trust me, the Cali Mild, ranked at a 4 is calmly hot enough. After that, it crosses over from amusement to affliction — except for those who acquisition amusement in pain.
The aroma is in the batter, which is thick, abundant and brittle to a fault; it crunches with every bite. It additionally does not cull off easily; this is a concoction that’s been anchored assimilate the craven meat. But alike if you do administer to cull some off, you’ll acquisition the aroma is in the craven itself as well.
The peppers cannot be denied. They exude, they dominate, they’re what the bowl is all about — the raison d’être. The craven pieces appear aloft white bread, with bind slices; white aliment is a attitude in the South, and that’s all there is to it. Accomplished aureate is not an option.
Assuming you charge more, there’s thick, buttery mac and smokin’ cheese, a appreciably acceptable barbecue broiled bean trio, ridiculously adorable potato salad, “cobbed” corn, the above slaw (kale? acceptable to LA!) and, on weekends, waffles. Craven and waffles…perfection!
Kim Prince has brought us a aftertaste of the absolute deal. All that’s missing is the Music City vibe. But then, aback you’re digging into a leg quarter, that may not matter. The arcade centermost will achromatize away. The alone complete is fiery claret anguish in your ears.
Ragin’ Cajun Café and Moonshine Bar
525 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach; 310-540-7403
Ragin’ Cajun Café and Moonshine Bar serves some of the best beer aliment in town. Certainly the deep-fried alligator is helped forth with a nice algid brew. Abnormally as the ability dawns that, yes, as has been said abounding times before, it tastes like chicken. Abnormally aback biconcave in the abrupt cocktail booze it comes with. It looks like craven too. Perhaps if it weren’t in batter, I’d agenda a point of difference. But far as I can tell, it’s ordered for aloof rights. (Like the guinea pig I had for banquet in Peru.)
More characteristic are the catfish bites, adapted in the above acceptable batter, accurately seasoned, served with a tartar booze acceptable abundant to eat with a spoon. There are Cajun craven bites too. Which, you know, aftertaste like alligator. The deep-fried abjure appear shelled, so you don’t accept to action that aggravating carapace.
And I go for the peel-n-eat shrimp, which is a acceptable countdown for the abundant shrimp dishes on the card — there’s shrimp broiled and shrimp barbecued, shrimp étoufféed and shrimp fried, shrimp with backtalk in a soup and shrimp on a salad, shrimp with fettuccine, shrimp in a po’boy, and shrimp in a cocktail.
But as shrimpy as things are (and as begrimed — this is a axis of Paul Prudhomme’s begrimed style), the bowl I consistently appear aback for is the gumbolaya, a shotgun alliance amid craven and sausage gumbo, and rice jambalaya. It’s the best of both worlds, and bigger than either. (Or at least, as good. Let us not asperse the borsch in particular.) Admitting it comes with french bread, it goes alike bigger with the bacon and cheese cornbread.
And yup, there are calm puppies too. And beignets. And pecan pie. It’s not aloof “let the acceptable times roll” — at Ragin’ Cajun, they’re rollin’ appropriate along.
Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Email email@example.com.