Judging from these Malay, Thai, Sichuan, Korean and Indian dishes—we Asians can sure take the heat.

Singapore may be known for its blazing hot weather, but it is also a hub of the spiciest cuisines. From Sichuan mala to Indian curry, we sacrificed our taste buds to bring you the hottest, most delicious food our island has to offer. Many of the restaurants we visited told us that, to match Singaporean preferences, their dishes pack less heat than the versions in their native countries. So if you’re an insatiable spice demon, remember to request for your food extra spicy!

Nasi goreng

THE HEAT FACTOR
Though nasi goreng translates simply to ‘fried rice’, don’t be fooled. This Malay dish is known to slay unsuspecting diners. Just ask the Singaporean man who filed a police report in Johor Bahru three years ago after eating nasi goreng kampung that was too spicy. While it is unclear whether any nasi goreng in Singapore dishes out ‘illegal’ levels of spice, there are numerous versions that can certainly bring the heat.

FEEL THE BURN
Supper favourite Al-Azhar in Upper Bukit Timah serves a wide array of spicy food; virtually every meat or seafood dish has a pedas (spicy) option. They also offer an interesting rendition of nasi goreng, the Al-Azhar Special Fried Rice ($8). The spiciness of the dish hits you in three waves. First, let the black pepper fried rice warm up the throat with a pleasing buzz. Next, dollop on the sambal belacan, whose chilli padi will strike the tongue with shards of heat. Lastly, dig into the sambal prawns buried under a pile of keropok—the sauce will leave your mouth tingling all over. 11 Cheong Chin Nam Road. Tel: 6462 2014

Thai basil chicken

THE HEAT FACTOR
One of Thailand’s most famous street foods is pad krapow gai, or Thai basil chicken. Its ingredients are straightforward—minced chicken, Thai holy basil, chilli padi, garlic, dark sauces and sugar—all of which are stir-fried in a wok to create a wonderful aroma.

FEEL THE BURN
Bangkok chain Yentafo Kruengsonge is known for their Thai version of yong tau foo featuring a signature pink sauce and three levels of spice. What’s less obvious is the abundance of spicy dishes on their menu, including a killer Thai basil chicken ($8.50). Based on our experience, its heat is capable of inducing great suffering and a few tears. #02-06 Cathay Cineleisure Orchard, 8 Grange Road. Tel: 6736 0971

Sichuan chilli chicken

THE HEAT FACTOR
Sichuan chilli chicken (also known as firecracker chicken or 辣子鸡) could be thought of as a drier and crispier cousin of kung pao chicken. It comprises diced chicken (twice fried to achieve a golden crisp) in a mound of charred chillis and numbing peppercorns.

FEEL THE BURN
Sichuan cuisine can be palate-punishing, but a restaurant like Si Wei Mao Cai gets it right. Though their chilli chicken ($12) maintains an outsize ratio of chillis to chicken, it is a dish that even the spice-averse wiill enjoy. The chicken is crispy, savoury and bears only a faint hint of peppery heat. If you want the full punch, wolf it down with the fresh chillis and peppercorns. The restaurant’s menu is a heat-seeker’s heaven—you’d be hard pressed to find an item without chilli in its name or in the picture. Other bestsellers include the chilli frog and the poached fish. 33 Mosque Street. Tel: 6223 1170

Vindaloo

THE HEAT FACTOR
If you know your curries, you will have heard of vindaloo, the notoriously spicy concoction from Goa. Made with dried Kashmiri chillis, fresh green chillis and black peppercorns, vindaloo is a an old Portuguese dish that was localised through the liberal addition of spices. Originally a pork curry, it is now common to find chicken, lamb or even potato versions.

FEEL THE BURN
Aromas of India makes a mean lamb vindaloo ($17.90). The spice level has been tempered for local tastes, for sure, yet the fiercely red curry bursts with flavour and is especially delicious with blankets of garlic naan. This version contains large, soft cubes of lamb and fork-tender chunks of potato. Not the burn you were looking for? We recommend taking a bite of the unassuming green chillis if the heat from the chilli padis doesn’t leave you gulping jugs of water down. 60 Race Course Road. Tel: 6256 2448

Yukgaejang

THE HEAT FACTOR
This Korean spicy beef soup is a hearty and nourishing comfort food that gives a satisfying kick. The source of heat here is heaps of gochugaru (Korean red chilli flakes), along with a splash of gochugirum (chilli oil) or gochujang (chilli paste). Yukgaejang is also chockfull of bean sprouts, mushrooms, leeks and—one of the best parts—gosari (rehydrated fernbrake), which gives the soup a pleasant earthy flavour.

FEEL THE BURN
At Togi Korean Restaurant, a 15-year-old veteran on Mosque Street, you’ll be warmed not only by the cosy shophouse space and welcoming staff but also by the homey, authentic cooking. The yukgaejang here ($16) is simmered for up to three hours and contains shredded beef brisket and glass noodles—a complete and filling meal with a bowl of steamed rice. Looking for more zing on the side? Order the dakbal (spicy chicken feet) or chusam jungol (spicy baby octopus stew). 11 Mosque Street. Tel: 6221 0830

Ayam penyet

THE HEAT FACTOR
Indonesian for ‘smashed chicken’, ayam penyet refers to how the chicken thigh is pounded with a wooden mallet before it is deep-fried. We love the crispy bits of fried batter (a delicious rice topping), but the most lasting impression is left by the sambal belacan, a scorching sauce that stings and numbs the tongue.

FEEL THE BURN
Dapur Penyet combines the Surabaya specialty with a stunning diversity of sambals from across the Indonesian isles. At their Centrepoint outlet, five of these hot sauces are available as condiments. (The spiciest, sambal rica, comes from Manado, Sulawesi.) Usually, you smear on as little or as much of the sambal as you please, but with ayam sambal belado ($7), there is no escape: the fiery paste from Padang, Sumatra is smothered directly and generously onto the chicken. A blend of red chillis and chilli padi, this potent sambal eschews sweet tomato and savoury belacan, such that the hot pepper heat is sharp and unadulterated. #01-59 The Centrepoint, 176A Orchard Road. Tel: 6734 2840

Spicy ramen

THE HEAT FACTOR
The spicy ramen challenge that first took YouTube by storm in 2015 features brave souls taking on a bowl of Samyang chicken-flavoured instant noodles. Contenders experience various degrees of misery (squirming, coughing, reddening) as viewers look on in sadistic delight. What makes the noodles so lethal? The seasoning packet contains pepper, chilli powder, chilli oil, habanero flavouring and—alarmingly—oleoresin capsicum (OC). This chilli extract is notably used in pepper spray, and so is equally adept at incapacitating the eyes and the mouth. In restaurants, spicy ramen features chillis of all forms and sizes, so long as they turn up the heat.

FEEL THE BURN
Up for a spicy challenge? Ramen Champion offers the ominously named magma ramen, filled with a multitude of blood-curdling spices. See our feature on spicy challenges for more details. Still not satisfied? Check out our round-up of nine spicy snacks, where we identify the true scorchers.

Missed the July edition of BiTES, our spiciest issue yet? Read it online here.