For all you heat seekers out there, this list is for you. We’ll periodically post about a variety of different menu items around the Triangle that will get your taste buds fired up. Whether it’s the sinus clearing, dripping sweat or nose is running type of heat; we’ve covered them all. Let us know what you think about these dishes and if you have any suggestions as to which items you think should make this hot list!
Akai Hana Japanese Restaurant – 206 W Main Street, Carrboro, NC 27510
Akai Hana Japanese Restaurant is in Carrboro, a stone’s throw from Carolina’s campus. Their lunch menu boasts the trending and popular sushi burrito, but don’t miss out on the Master Roll. This house special sushi roll consists of spicy tuna and shrimp tempura topped with yellowtail, avocado, wasabi tobiko, wasabi sauce and scallions. The fact that wasabi is highlighted in two of the roll’s ingredients lets you know this roll will be packing a punch. This roll has so many sensory sensations and flavors you forget about the spice since the initial spicy tuna is relatively mild. The wasabi tobiko looks pretty and warrants the typical slight pop and crunch once you bite down into it. Wait a second or two before you feel the wasabi heat creep up and out of your nasal passage. Only then do you want to cool it off with the wasabi sauce. Deceptively creamy in appearance, this sauce takes the heat over the edge just before it gets unbearable. The heat is so addictive, though, and you can’t help but finish the rest of the roll.
Thai Villa – 1319 Buck Jones Rd, Cary, NC, 27606
Situated near the Grand Asia Market in Cary, Thai Villa is sure to give you that authentic Thai heat that many heat seekers are looking for. This is one of those restaurants where the waiter makes sure you know what you’re getting yourself into when you ask for your dish hot. While many of the menu items pack a punch, a few of my favorites are the Thai Villa Noodles and the Peanut Noodles. The Thai Villa Noodles are rich and delicious and I’m normally satisfied with a medium heat for mine. However, if you are really a heat seeker I think they would be just as amazing with high heat. The Peanut Noodles are a little different in that they are in a peanut coconut milk broth. I go for medium in this dish as well, but I find it to be a little spicier in general than the Thai Villa Noodles. You can’t go wrong with curry or always-favorite Pad Thai either. No matter what you get, you’ll be sure to get your spicy fix.
Guacamaya Fresh Mex – 2444 Wycliff Rd., Raleigh, NC, 27607
Guacamaya Fresh Mex (formally Chubby’s Tacos) offers up some of our favorite tacos in town. A few of these tacos are sure to satisfy the cravings of Triangle heat seekers. My personal favorite is the chorizo taco. I know its simple, but their chorizo really packs a punch of both spice and flavor. If you really want to kick it up a notch you can head to their salsa bar at the back of the restaurant and chose from the many spicy options they have there. I love topping my tacos with the spicy green salsa to add some heat. Another taco you might enjoy is the Baja Shrimp Taco, which is topped with a chipotle sour cream sauce. While the coleslaw on the taco tames the heat a little bit, it still has a delicious spice. Another favorite is the Spicy Chicken Tinga Taco. While I’ve found that the spice level varies depending on the day, it always comes with some heat. This is another one I love topping with a spicy salsa to finish it off. So for anyone looking for some spice, you’ll find plenty to choose from at any of the five different Guacamaya Fresh Mex locations.
This is not a restaurant in the Triangle, but it is a local business that will attract any heat seekers out there. Benny T’s Vesta offers dry hot sauces that bring the heat without overpowering the flavor of your dish. Go for Hot or Super Hot for beginners, but if you really want to get crazy try the Scorpion, Reaper or Ghost variety. I’ll give you fair warning though, don’t get it on your hands and then touch your eyes. You can add Benny T’s to pretty much any dish including pasta, hummus, eggs, even chocolate or other sweet delights. You can also find Benny T’s Vesta used in a variety of dishes around the Triangle. Restaurants using Benny T’s Vesta in their dishes include Videri Chocolate Factory, Happy & Hale, Stuft, East Village, and Whiskey Kitchen. You can also by your own bottles on their website or at local retailers such as Whole Foods, Southern Season, and Robert’s Grocery.
Melissa Guido is a currently a dietetic intern in the Triangle area. She studied nutrition at NC State and Meredith College. Her favorite part about nutrition is showing people that healthy food can be exciting and delicious. Melissa loves traveling and learning about how food fits into different cultures. In her free time she loves trying new restaurants, cooking, and obsessing over her dogs. Follow her on Instagram @made2order and at www.madeorder.wordpress.com.