If a large bottle of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce travels with you, you are a "hottie." Finding incendiary dishes around town isn't a problem if you think about cuisines from places that need to sweat to cool off.
• Most Ethiopian dishes are stews (wats) flavored by spices. Berbere is a multi-dimensional chili mix that blends chile peppers, shallots, and as many as 15 spices -- including ginger, turmeric, salt, coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom, allspice, fenugreek, cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. Dishes with more punch use mitmita, the Ethiopian version of the three-alarm chili mix. The kitchen at Meskerem makes a mean Miser Wat, a piquant lentil stew. The heat level can be reduced upon request.
Meskerem Ethiopian Cuisine, 601 S. Kings Drive, 704-335-1197
• The multiple exclamation marks beside Texas Chili on Lupie's menu denotes its extreme heat. This chili has cayenne, crushed peppers and habanero chilis (when in season). Owner Lupie says, "This dish is too hot for some -- some mix in our milder Southern chili in order to reduce the heat."
Lupie's Café, 2718 Monroe Road, 704-374-1232
• One of the heat-seeking dishes in Indian restaurants is the vindaloo. Unlike a lip-searing Texas chili, a vindaloo aims the heat towards the back of the mouth, which can be extinguished by a cooling hit of raita or a sip of an icy beer. One of the best lamb vindaloos can be found at Sangram.
Sangram, 20910 Torrence Chapel Road, 704-655-9600