It may be cold but that doesn’t mean your only source of heat is a blanket.
The Internet never forgets and unfortunately for me, the words “if I’m not sweating, I’m not eating” are now immortalized on YouTube. Don’t Google it. However ridiculous, it’s a true statement; I love spicy food. I’m like your aunt who salts food without tasting it, except in this case the salt is a squeeze of Akabanga or a scoop of green chilis in olive oil…and that’s tame. My love for spicy food knows no bounds so when followers on Instagram suggested I review the best spicy food in the city, it was an honour and a privilege to oblige. In order to take on the task (we have a lot of good spice to choose from) I decided to break it down by food category. I hope you take the time to warm yourself from the inside out this rainy season and the next time you try one of the below, you get a little hot under the collar.
J’s Fresh Bar & Kitchen
Although currently discontinued, the aptly named Dragon Burger was designed to have you breathing fire. The Dragon Burger was introduced during the Nairobi Burger Festival in 2018 and was made up of a double beef patty, two layers of sauteed chilli, melted cheese, tomatoes, pickles and lettuce. Before eating competitions were a dime a dozen, J’s was offering a shot of tequila for anyone who could ‘slay the dragon’ (finish the burger). It was great. J’s, if you’re reading this #BringBackTheDragonBurger.
Adding a dab of chilli oil into a steaming bowl of ramen in this weather is probably the most comforting feeling after snuggling up by a fire. At Chekafe, the Spicy Noodle is a 5-inch deep bowl of homemade noodles, spicy chicken and a thick flavourful broth made with sesame paste and chicken. When asked how spicy you want the noodles, insist on the “very” (I may have even added that I want the chef to assault my taste buds). What you’ll get is a broth that will make your nose run and your lips tingle. If that doesn’t do it for you, they are happy to serve you additional chilli oil on the side.
You can’t call yourself an Indian restaurant without serving naan and you can’t have a meal at an Indian restaurant without ordering it. Great, now that we got those basic facts out of the way let’s discuss types of naan. Sure, you could go with the classic garlic or butter but if you’re feeling fuego, order the chilli/bullet/turbo naan. My favourite – and most densely chilli-packed naan – is the turbo naan from Chowpaty. No need to ask for additional chilli on the side, you’ve got your fair share on the soft, pillowy, fresh-out-the-oven slice of dough.
Spicy chicken wings are a staple on any wing menu. Buffalo Wings are classic and usually the mildest wings with a few adventurous “habanero” or “flaming hot” takes. Wings Kenya has what they call the Nuke Wings Challenge, not for the faint of heart. Served by waitrons in hazmat suits ringing a bell akin to shaming Cersei, this plate of torturously-hot wings will have you downing pints of milk. These aren’t wings to ‘enjoy’ they’re wings for fame. Finish a plate of these and get your name cast on the wall alongside other brave-hearted participants.
Although an Indian restaurant might not be your first choice for a pizza, if you like spicy food, you may want to reconsider. The Hot Indiana pizza comes on a thin crust with tomatoes, cheese and lots of green chilli. The amount of bird’s eye green chilli on the pizza may make you wonder if the chef sneezed when holding the chilli container over the dough and turned it into a happy accident. This pizza will have you sharply inhaling air through clenched teeth and that’s a compliment.
First, if you haven’t been eating the Artcaffe homemade chilli, what have you been doing there all this time? This tangy green chilli sauce is a perfect balance for chilli lovers and enthusiasts alike.
If you’re like me, you always want to have hot sauce in your bag (swag). At flea markets and festivals (such as The Nairobi Flea Market), you’ll find local vendors selling delicious homemade hot sauce that’ll add just the right heat to your meal. Mdalasini has ‘got the hots for you’ selling chilli sauces aptly named “Tear Gas” and “TNT”. Last but not least, a good friend of mine gifted me a bottle of Ma Phoebe’s Sauces which she got from The Nairobi Flea Market and it was flavourful chilli, great for cooking, as a condiment or even added to a marinade. Support local and ensure you never have to endure a bland meal again.