I love spicy foods – from the “suicide” wings at Teakwoods to the habanero barbecue sauce at Joe’s Real BBQ – but Americans certainly don’t have a monopoly on zesty cuisine. So today, which happens to be International Hot & Spicy Food Day, here are five of my East Valley favorites for international fare:
Los Dos Molinos: These Mexican – OK, technically, New Mexican – family-run eateries (pictured above) offer mouth-scorching salsa and fiery entrees like spicy green chile beef, chiles rellenos and red chile adovada ribs. 260 S. Alma School Road, Mesa, 480-969-7475; 4025 E. Chandler Blvd., Ahwatukee, 480-706-1066.
India Oven: This humble Mesa strip-mall restaurant offers a tasty buffet for lunch and dinner, but spiciness is kept mainstream-appealing. On the other hand, items off the regular menu – like chili lamb or goat curry – can be ordered mild, medium or hot. 1315 S. Gilbert Road, Mesa, 480-892-3333.
Nunthaporn Thai: Pick your entree – maybe spicy basil chicken (shown at left) or, if you dare, jungle curry beef – at this downtown Mesa gem, then specify the level of heat on a five-point scale ranging from mild to “Thai hot.” Cool off your mouth with soothing coconut gelato. 17 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-649-6140.
Saigon Pho: My go-to spot for pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup. Huge simmering bowls are just $5 or $6, and the broth, beef and vegetables can be jazzed up with Thai chili peppers and various spicy pastes to make it as hot as you can handle. 1381 N. Alma School Road, Chandler, 480-786-8828.
Tina’s Ethiopian Café: Considered the spiciest of African cuisines, Ethiopian food consists of various oniony stews called wats – many made with berbere, a mix of chili pepper powder and other spices – eaten by hand with bread called injera. 785 W. Warner Road, Gilbert, 480-772-2904.