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Capsaicinoid Cookery (Hot Food!)


Sure warm libations do the trick when winter is nipping at your nose, but sometimes booze isn’t enough. There's food to consider as well; it’s the food that comforts and sustains us when the cold comes creeping under the door.

Comfort food like stews, chowders, and pot roasts often work, but if I’m really interested in something that will practically burn my soul, then I’m looking for food laden with heat, specifically chili peppers. Chilis come in lots of forms—from jalapeño to scotch bonnets—and each contain the magical capsaicinoids responsible for sending a message to your brain along the lines of “this food is HOT!”

There's no shortage of spots to find truly hot and spicy food in the Twin Cities, but today, I’ll pick some of my favorite capsaicinoid cookery to highlight, and I hope you’ll do the same. All of these restaurants are committed to sustainable practices, freshness, good service, and big-time flavor, which is why their spicy dish ranks highly with me:

• Chicken Paalak at Gorhka Palace: Comfort in a bowl—tender, boneless chunks of chicken and chopped spinach cooked with garlic and ginger in tomato-based sauce. Order the dish hot with a cup of their Masala chai tea to warm your fingers.

• Phở at Ngon Vietnamese Bistro (pictured): A big bowl of traditional Vietnamese noodle soup made with oxtail and beef bone broth, served with basil, lime, bean sprouts, and sliced jalapeño peppers on the side.

• Garlic Ginger Chicken at ChinDian: These tender nuggets of breaded chicken with onions and a tomato-garlic-ginger sauce are better than any boneless “wings” I’ve tried. Order the dish hot with extra ginger and a cup of their ginger tea to warm your fingers. If you want to balance it out with some veggies, try the green beans.

• Som Tum at Sen Yai Sen Lek: A cold, tart green papaya salad with beans, garlic, Thai chilies, tomatoes, and tiny dried shrimp served with a lime dressing. Want extra spice? Just ask.

What are some of your favorite spicy dishes in the Twin Cities, and what makes them so darn good?

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

Have a food-related question? Email rhutton@mnmo.com

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