• Fire chicken with blue cheese (Adam Liaw)Source: Adam Liaw
If you're sweltering through summer, these spicy meals will soon cool you down.
7 Dec 2020 - 5:06 PM  UPDATED 3 Dec 2020 - 3:12 PM

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It might seem contrary, but eating hot food on a hot day really does cool you down. Spicy food triggers the same response in the body as high temperatures - it makes you sweat, which ultimately makes you feel cooler.

Why you should drink hot tea and eat chillies in summer to cool down
Push that ice-cold drink aside this summer and opt for a hot Moroccan tea, Chinese soup or chilli-filled dish to break into a sweat and really cool your body down.

This is the reason why cuisines from the more scorching parts of the world are often the spiciest. Think of a Mexican mole, Liberian chilli sauce, Indian vindaloo, or a Jamaican jerk chicken. The hotter the temperature, the hotter the food.

Not that we need an excuse to fire up the insides. Eating just to the edge of pain is something of an obsession around here. Go gently...

The quest for the world’s hottest chill
In the last 20 years, there have been increasingly heated attempts to produce the hottest chilli on the planet - so how are they rated?

Be a jerk

If you're serious about your jerk marinade, you'll use scorching Scotch bonnet chillies and plenty of 'em. Jerking in Jamaica will often result in dishes only locals dare handle.

Chargrilled jerk pork on watermelon and coconut salad

Jerk seasoning is not just exclusive to chicken and the fresh watermelon in this recipe balances out all that heavy spice and charring. The recipe is designed as an entree but can be made into a main dish for 3-4.

Vindaloo my darling

Fish vindaloo

Despite it's reputation as India's hottest curry, the kashmiri chillies used in this fish vindaloo recipe only have a Scoville Scale heat rating of 1000-2000 - which is to say jump right in, the water's fine.

Fire your chicken

Fire chicken with blue cheese

The Korean name for this dish is buldak, which literally translates to "fire chicken". Yup, it's that hot. The intense heat goes extremely well with a cold beer, which is probably the reason why this street food dish is also served in bars all over Seoul. 

Pepper your fish

It's not just chilli that will cool you down, the numbing heat of Sichuan peppers and fresh chillies does the job just as well. A light meal like this spicy water fish dish perfectly suits a searing summers day.

Curry on cooling

Creamy red lentil and coconut dahl

You can dahl the spice up or down, depending on how much heat you like. In this version, the fire comes from mustard, as well as chilli.

Dhal with curry spices

Curries are a playground for spices. Here the chana dhal provides a neutral backdrop to let them play and sing to mellow perfection. 

Goan dahl with golden fried fish

"The hero of this dish is the dahl, made with creamy coconut milk and fresh tomato. The fish plays a supporting role, which makes for an excellent light-on-meat option. You could even ditch the fish altogether, for a humble yet delicious meal." Matthew Evans, For the Love of Meat

Cayenne the heat

Rabbit and andouille gumbo.

A stew as dark and murky as the Louisiana swamps it hails from, gumbo comes in many variations. Here the intense flavour of rabbit is a good match for a decent hit of cayenne pepper and hot sauce.

Sauce on everything

Liberian home cook Judy Cole says this volcanic chilli sauce, "will take you to Africa and back again!" Now that's one way to travel!

Chargrilled sirloin with lemongrass and chilli sauce

This is steak and three veg with a difference - packed with Vietnamese flavours, this is a great dinner to whip up on a weekday night.

Beef brisket braised with tamarind and chilli sauce

This one-pot wonder is perfect to make in your slow-cooker, so that you can enjoy it over a bowl of fluffy white rice! 

Stir up the birds

Classic tom yum soup

Tom yum soup is known as one of Thailand's fierier dishes thanks to tiny birds' eye chillies. What they lack in size, birds' eye make up for in power, so do go easy.

Explode your salad

Mexican quinoa salad

Put some jalapeño bombs in a quinoa salad and cool will be your middle name.

Barbecue made extra

BBQ peri peri chicken

Peri peri seasoning is a must-have in cupboards from Portugal to South Africa. DIY and you can make it as flaming as you can stand.

Peri peri chicken with boom chakalaka

Chakalaka is a South African vegetable relish, usually spicy, that's traditionally served with braised meat, pap and curries.

Hot not sour

Asam laksa

If its hot and steamy, you need to go hot and sour in the form of a laksa. There's no question that the right amount of added chilli, tamarind and galangal will have you sweating it out in no time.

Hot times
Sichuan beer duck

This fragrant duck dish combines the sweet and numbing heat of Sichuanese spices with fresh aromatics, all braised together in a light beer sauce. If you're a fan of Sichuan cuisine, this is one dish you can't miss.

Mapo tofu with chilli oil

This is one of my all-time favourite things to eat. If you want to convince the meat eater in your life that food can be just as good without it, or you’re looking to reduce the amount of meat you eat, this recipe is a fantastic place to start.

Chilli with charred corn salsa

Bursting with healthy lentils, beans, spices and veggies, this is a protein-rich food bowl that's designed to refuel your body and soul.

Grilled beef skewers with pepperberry sauce

Up your BBQ game with this pepperberry sauce, which brings a slightly sweet flavour before packing a peppery punch. 

Soft shell crab with chilli tomato jam

The chilli-spiked sauce is the perfect match with crisp-battered crab.  

Salt and pepper fried squid with chilli

A mixture of chillies and spices give this famous fried squid its signature burst of flavour. 

Jalapeño cheese poppers

These bite-size fried jalapeño peppers pack a punch with habanero and chipotle sauces stirred through the cream cheese filling, and the layer of bacon is a smoky, salty surprise.

Sichuan pepper and salt

This is a simple spice mix made from toasted ground Sichuan peppercorns and salt flakes.

Black pepper chicken fry

Christine Manfield's Tasting India cookbook showcases recipes by home cooks, such as this southern specialty (known as "black chicken fry") by Mrs Meena Meyappan, a food and architecture expert in Tamil Nadu.

Jalapeno and corn fritters

Moreish as. We serve these in quantities of three or six at the restaurant. People always, ALWAYS choose six. You’ll see why!