It’s that time of the year when an entire day is dedicated to upping the spice factor and dining on the hottest, tangiest and sharp flavored dishes out there. International Hot & Spicy Food Day is a day adored by all the spicy food fanatics out there and a great time to get adventurous and try out the infamous spicy eating challenge. The Scoop team wanted to also celebrate this day through an Arab-fueled roundup of the spiciest dishes across the region.
Zhug With Potatoes
When we think of hot sauce, the immediate image we’d get is of a tiny glass bottle filled with a red liquid paste made from chili peppers but when it comes to Yemen, a completely different image comes to mind. Rather than the typical vibrant red sauce we all know and love, in Yemen, dishes get their spice factor upped using a different kind of sauce.
Known as zhug or sahawiq, it is a herb-packed sauce where the leaves and seeds of coriander get pounded and mixed with cardamom, cumin, parsley and chili peppers and get emulsified with lots of olive oil. To extract the most flavor, it is recommended to pound the ingredients with a traditional mortar and pestle rather than a food processor. To make the special sauce, you can check out Chili Pepper Madness’ recipe that is super simple and will probably only take 5 minutes.
With the sauce ready, you can pair it with anything but we’d recommend sticking to the type of food that would usually go great with a wide assortment of sauces. A great option is to pair it with a classic fan favorite, French fries or wedges but be warned, it will be quite spicy so have some milk nearby just in case.
Harissa, the infamous spicy, smoky and peppery red chili paste native to Tunisia and the Maghreb region at large is the region’s go-to when they want to add a spicy kick to any meal. From eggs and dips to marinades and noodles, the paste boasts endless potential and knows how to make any dish fiery and equally delicious.
For such a powerful paste, it is super easy to make, not taking longer than 10 minutes. A typical recipe would involve soaking dry chillis in hot water to rehydrate them and then from there, you will seed the chilis and blend them in a food processor along with roasted red peppers, garlic, tomato paste, spices and lemon juice. With that, you will have your paste ready to be enjoyed and that is when the fun part kicks in.
This special paste has the capacity to up any dish and so for your next chicken meal, we’d recommend making it fiery by adding harissa. A great recipe to try out is Suzy’s special rendition of the dish where she makes harissa grilled chicken and recommends having it with a side of couscous.
It doesn’t matter what season or time of day, there is an uncanny quality to the infamous Egyptian street food known as kebda Iskandarani or Alexandrian liver. Nothing beats the sizzle and splash of oil as slices of liver get cooked up by skilled street chefs along the crowded districts of Egypt’s cities including Cairo and Alexandria. As it fries up, spicy seasonings such as cumin, garlic, cardamom and chili peppers get added to give the dish that needed kick. After your highly anticipated wait, the street vendor will finally serve you some delicious kebda Iskandarani either in a sandwich or on its own accompanied by tahina dip and some bread.
For the true lovers of spicy food, you may enjoy your kebda while munching on some fresh chili peppers. You should be warned, doing so is not for the faint of heart as the amount of heat you will experience may make you re-think having spicy food for the rest of the year.
For a truly unique gastronomical experience, you need to try Saudi Arabia’s Red Jareesh, a dish that came all the way from a Saudi region known as Qassim. It can be likened to porridge as it is made using crushed wheat that is mixed with yogurt, onions, tomatoes and a blend of spices that includes a hefty dose of red chili flakes that will give the dish that extra spicy factor.
To make this unique dish, you can try out a very simple recipe by the Arabian Cuisine that starts off with frying some onion then cooking it with chicken and kiri cheese followed by adding in the wheat to be cooked into a thick consistency.
For all the pie lovers out there, if you are someone who also enjoys spicy food then Algeria’s mehagib pie is the way to go. Known for its thin and fragile dough, this special pie can be filled with pretty much anything from minced meat to cheese but to make it spicy there are several recipes that add in ground-up chili peppers with the filling of stewed vegetables. Unlike the other spicy dishes on the list, mehagib pie may be easier to enjoy as the flaky and buttery pie can help to lower the spice levels of the dish.
To enjoy your very own mehagib pie at home, we have an easy recipe for you to follow made by Salma Khaled that will include an easy series of steps like preparing the dough followed by mixing the ingredients for the filling.
With that, you’ve got a well-rounded range of options when it comes to spicy-fueled dishes from across the region. To truly enjoy these dishes, we’d recommend making sure to have a cup of milk nearby and some bread just in case their spice factor proves to be too much for your taste buds.