Winter is upon us: have you had your capsicum today? By Anne DesBrisay
Chili peppers, such pretty little tricksters. Just look at that beautiful mango salad – all pretty in shades of pink, accented with sweet little rings of red. Think of those rings as alarm bells. An authentic Thai salad (a yum) is as biting as it is beautiful, thanks to the power of the wee bird’s-eye chilies. But chilies do more than clear the sinuses: they are powerful antidotes to winter, loaded with vitamin C, among other good things. From the gentle lip tinglers to the breath robbers, chilies should be as much a part of your arsenal for fighting off winter’s worst as your scarf and toque. These dishes are burning hot. Keep your hanky handy. (Find this green mango salad at Siam Bistro, 1268 Wellington St. W., 613-728-3111, www.siambistro.com.)
1. Beef vindaloo: Vinegar is the ingredient in this Goan dish that sours the sauce and seems to kick the red chilies up a notch in the fire department. Kick it up even more with lime pickle, or soothe the burn with a mango lassi.
Where: Coconut Lagoon, 853 St. Laurent Blvd., 613-742-4444, www.coconutlagoon.ca.
2. Beef Rendang: A traditional dry dish in Malaysia, soft meat simmered to full absorption in coconut milk perfumed with a cocktail of spices and with a spice paste that’s wildly memorable.
Where: Chahaya Malaysia, 1690 Montreal Rd., 613-742-0242.
3. Hot pot: Szechuan (or Sichuan, Szechwan) style! You’ll know it as bold and brash. Often appended with three chili signs on Chinese menus. The combination of chili oil and the Szechuan pepper, which has a tingling, buzzing quality, can be numbing (especially true of the G13).
Where: Beijing Legend, 1800 Bank St., 613-737-5588, www.beijinglegend.com.
4. Jerk chicken: Built from a foundation of aromatic spices, garlic, and thyme, what gives jerk its nip is the Scotch bonnets — such a sweet name for these stingers. Eat it with a ginger beer in hand.
Where: Mugena Enterprises, 911 Richmond Rd., 613-722-8228, www.mugena.ca.
5. Lamb Key Wot: Berbere, the magic paste that underlies many Ethiopian stews, is what fires up this wot. The spongy pancake called injera does more than ferry wot to mouth: it helps mitigate the sting. A little.
Where: Habesha, 574 Rideau St., 613-761-6120.
6. Korean Jaeyukbokum: A spicy pork and vegetable dish with healthy dollops of gochujang, Korean hot sauce.
Where: Alirang, 134 Nelson St., 613-789-2223, www.alirang.com.