Controlling your chillies
Jill Dupleix shows how to manage your chillies, in order to make the heat level perfect for you.
Nothing says hot date like fishing through a bowl of chillies for deep-fried meat treats, or ordering the hottest soup on the menu just because "it was there". It is, however, a very good way to see whether your dining buddy can throw down on the Scoville scale. With that in mind, here's a small taste of the spicier side of Sydney.
Super nova tom yum at Do Dee Paidang
The draw here is the tom yum – a series of soups each more deadly than the last, numbered from one to seven in order of face-melting-osity. This isn't so much the hot-and-sour Thai menu staple you might recognise from your local. It's field surgery broth. Fragrant and radioactive with two types of noodles (crunchy egg and slippery rice), soft pork sausage and firm fish balls, redolent with chilli. Order the No. 7 (aptly named the "super nova") if you've got a death wish or an iron stomach.
9/37 Ultimo Road, Haymarket, 02 8065 3827, dodeepaideng.com.au
Really f---ing hot chicken tenders at Belles Hot Chicken
No fooling – this is a legitimately painful experience in the most delicious of ways. The Melbourne fried chicken and natural wine shack that is part-time hospitality clubhouse and full-time saviour to the Fitzroy cocktail-dented has popped up in Sydney at the new Barangaroo development. The smell of Old Bay permeates the air (I wonder how Noma diners feel sitting in front of their fermented kangaroo while they can smell fried chicken?) And while they're not licensed, a sweet iced tea definitely puts out the raging flames.
33 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo, belleshotchicken.com
Salt-and-pepper veal sweetbreads at Spice Temple
There's a certain amount of joy to be found in fishing through a giant bowl filled with a thicket of stir-fried chillies, to discover nubs of deep-fried veal puffs hiding beneath. It's like the world's most fraught apple bob. And though it looks like a sea of terrifying spice, it's more about deep warmth over deep heat. Order it to frighten – and then delight – your friends.
10 Bligh Street, Sydney, 02 8078 1888, rockpool.com/spicetemplesydney
Nam khao tod sandwich at Boon Cafe
The Thai cafe that's had Sydney in a spin for the past year still rules the roost when it comes to lunchtime spice and funk. Can't stand the heat but want to stay in the kitchen? Make friends with the nam khao tod sandwich: a glossy toasted bun is filled with a thrillingly texture-rich carb-on-carb combination of coconutty fermented pork, chunks of rice cake and pickled cabbage, carrot and cucumber – oh, and a side of pork scratchings. Or go straight to the spicy and fermentalicious som tum – shreds of green papaya, all the chilli you can handle, snails, bits of pickled crab, tomatoes, peanuts and green beans. Oh, mama.
425 Pitt Street, Haymarket, 02 9281 2114, booncafe.com
Cumin lamb at Chairman Mao
It's the Hunanese restaurant to beat all others in Sydney and, when it comes to the spice factor, offers some of the longest lasting burns in town. But this burn is slow and low, rather than a javelin to the guts. Take the shredded lamb, stir-fried with a psychedelic amount of chilli, cumin and salt. Sucker punch snacking for comrades and non-comrades alike.
189 Anzac Parade, Kensington, 02 9697 9189