Coming into the New Year Hot

January 16, 2021 – Kayla Thompson, Adult Services Coordinator

Happy New Year! Regardless of whether your resolutions are big or just trying to make 2021 better than 2020, the new year is here and coming in hot (and I don’t mean the weather). January 16th is International Hot and Spicy Food Day! The perfect day for me to gush about all of my favorite hot and spicy dishes from around the world! I am going to give you all my top ten favorite spicy dishes, where they come from, some fun facts if I have them, as well as some cookbooks the library has that showcase some of the world’s spicy foods. So, if you are ready to feel the burn, let’s do this thing.


Also known as pork back-bone stew, this spicy dish comes from Korea and is my absolute favorite spicy food as well as my absolute favorite Korean dish. The broth is made from the spine or neck bones of a pig and it usually includes delicious ingredients like potatoes, radish greens, onions, hot peppers, sesame seeds, and sometimes–my personal favorite–kimchi!

Tom Yum Soup

Tom Yum Soup (Tom Yum Goong, Tom Yum Talay) is a spicy Thai soup cooked with shrimp as the main protein (though it is often served with shrimp and squid together). The broth is made with flavors and spices such as lime, chiles, and ginger and usually includes vegetables like mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and really anything else you think might go well (I once had one with zucchini slices in it). Typically served with rice or noodles.

Chicken & Potato Tikka Masala

This mouth-watering dish can be found in many Indian restaurants and is a type of chicken curry (though sometimes served with potatoes included). The fun thing about a lot of Indian restaurants (as well as most Thai places) is that you can choose your spice level (usually from 1-3 or 1-5 but it can vary depending on the place). I like to order chicken samosas with my tikka masala as well but it is usually served over rice to help fill you up.

Hot Chicken Ramen (buldak-bokkeum-myeon)

A hot chicken-flavored ramen that comes in many different spice levels. I like this brand because the noodles are extra thick (thicker than regular ramen noodles) and my favorite flavor is the chicken curry flavor. It’s so so good, but it delivers on the spice. I need to munch on ice cubes when I finish.

Buffalo Wings

Now, this might be a little more familiar. I love hot wings (really I just love wings but hot wings are my jam). I know a lot of people prefer boneless chicken wings, but I prefer chicken on a bone and smothered in hot sauce. It’s messy but delicious!


This should at least sound a little familiar only because I mentioned it earlier in my number one spot. Kimchi is a fermented vegetable smothered and covered in red pepper paste and flakes (it is a little more complicated than that but this is the simplest description). It is a Korean staple. You will find it in or with almost every single Korean meal. I buy jars of the stuff and can’t get enough. The most common kimchi is fermented napa cabbage, but you can make it with radishes, spring onions, lotus root, etc. It is good on its own, but I like to eat it in soups and fried rice the best.

Habanero Salsa

Depending on who you are, salsa may or may not be spicy for you. It depends on the pepper and how long you cook it down whether or not you leave the seeds, etc. I love pico de gallo and mango salsa but one of my brothers grows his own peppers and tomatoes and makes a super good habanero salsa, as well as a jalapeno salsa and Trinidad scorpion salsa. Though not the spiciest of the foods listed here, my love for salsa means it has to make the list.

Sushi with Wasabi

Sushi itself isn’t a spicy dish, but the wasabi that comes with it sure is! I love to eat sushi with wasabi! Though, be careful with it because that condiment created the phrase ‘a little goes a long way’. Shogun and Watami here in town have some pretty good sushi, though, my favorite restaurant to eat sushi at isn’t local. Love Sushi has two locations with one being in Jefferson City and the other being in Columbia, Missouri. Sushi Ai in St. Louis gets an honorable mention for its delicious all-you-can-eat special!

Pho (with Jalapenos) 

Pho is a Vietnamese soup made from bone broth and usually has a protein (I like to get beef) with rice noodles, bean sprouts (or cabbage depending on the time of year), and other odds and ends (usually lime, some herbs, and the broth has a bunch of spices ranging from garlic to anise that give it its perfect pho taste). Pho doesn’t have to be spicy and usually (at least the various times that I have had it) it isn’t, but it often comes with jalapenos as a side to put in it, and I love to load it up. Pho is the dish I eat all year round and is the perfect mood booster for me.

Seoul Taco’s Korean-Mexican Fusion Chicken Tacos (with spicy sriracha sauce)

…or their Beef Gogi Bowl with extra gochujang paste. I can’t decide, so you get a bonus recommendation from me. 

Though I really love all kinds of international foods and all kinds of spicy foods, if you couldn’t tell, I really love Korean cuisine and could probably fill an entire list of 10 alone with just spicy Korean dishes. 

To wrap up this spicy start to a new year, below are some cookbooks that the Cape Girardeau Library has that showcase some international cuisine as well as some spicy main courses!

*Note: some of these may not have spicy food in them, but showcase food from around the world:

The Middle Eastern Cookbook by Maria Khalife
Tamales by Mark Miller et. al.
The Foods of the Greek Islands by Aglaia Kremezi
Mediterranean Country Cooking by Jacqueline Clarke and Joanna Farrow
The Cuban Table by Ana Sofia Pelaez and Ellen Silverman
How to Cook Indian: More than 500 Classic Recipes for the Modern Kitchen by Sanjeev Kapoor
Best-Ever Book of Thai Cooking by Judy Bastyra & Becky Johnson
Let’s Make Ramen by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan
Cook Korean by Robin Ha
Kwanzaa: An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking by Eric V. Copage
Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking by Maangchi with Lauren Chattman
Sushi with Style by Ellen Brown
The Bali Cookbook by Lonny Gerungan
The Vietnamese Market Cookbook by Van Tran and Anh Vu
Best-Ever Recipes Japanese & Sushi by Emi Kazuko and Yasko Fukuoka
The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook by Danny Bowien and Chris Ying


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