Spice up your life! It’s good for you.

June 29, 2017

I love making reference to “spice wimps” on my radio show. I even have a little “voice” I use when making fun of them. I think it’s funny. I’m not sure everyone does. That notwithstanding, I do have friends who militantly avoid spicy foods, and I just don’t get it – other than for specific medical reasons, of course. Nobody ever died from eating a hot pepper – though there are probably some who wanted to at the time.

All sorts of health benefits are attributed to capsaicin (the stuff that makes you wish you hadn’t eaten that pepper). It’s a powerful antioxidant, and has been proven to reduce the severity of migraine headaches. It relieves arthritis pain and has strong antibacterial properties that help prevent sinus infections. And whatever sweat it might generate can cool you off on hot days.

There’s no shortage of places here at the beach that will happily spice up your mealtime. Chef Shawn Xiong at Confucius has a secret stash of mean little peppers from Hunan Province in China. And out of all the Mexican joints, Dos Locos’ satanic “melt your face” brew is probably the hottest. Right across the street is Conch Island Key West Bar & Grill, yet another haven for spice lovers. Bryan Derrickson’s conch chowder is loaded with flavor and moderate heat. And if you are looking for some mild hallucinations to accompany your happy taste buds try his mega stuffed jalapeno poppers – wrapped in bacon, of course.

Don and Lori Allen’s unassuming Beaches Seafood Market & Restaurant (where Jimmy Lynn’s used to be) is also not shy with the spices – if you ask. Don’s spicy fried oysters & shrimp will get your attention, but chili lovers are in for a special treat. In fact, Don’s wicked concoction is so hot that he only serves it in the winter.

If you like food with personality, don’t miss Raghu Kumar’s brand new Indigo Indian restaurant just steps from the Boardwalk in Rehoboth. Anything with the word “vindaloo” in it will make you happy. Order the lamb vindaloo, then look Raghu or his dad square in the eyes and say: “Give it to me Rehoboth Foodie hot!” Pair it with a basket of onion kulcha and garlic naan.

Of course no discussion of spicy heat is complete without mention of Bethany Blues. Truth be told, the hot pepper maniac who gave me the above information about capsaicin brewed up the spicy BBQ sauce for Bethany Blues. It’s so good that Reid Angus Farms in Frankford, Delaware makes an Angus beef jerky using that sauce. Locals and chilihead visitors know that the hot pepper maniac to whom I refer is none other than Chip Hearn of and Peppers in Lewes.

The pain-producing compound in wasabi (a type of horseradish) is different from capsaicin in that it dissipates quickly.

So though you still might long for death while you’re eating it, you’ll change your mind quicker than if you’d popped a habanero.

Pure wasabi is expensive and difficult to keep fresh, so most sushi/sashimi joints serve a green-tinted paste of horseradish, starch and mustard. Some Rehoboth restaurants do offer the real thing; grating it fresh to order for perhaps a small upcharge. Two of those places are the Cultured Pearl and Saketumi.

Other sushi/sashimi spots include Big Fish Restaurant Group’s Stingray Asian/Latino Bistro & Sushi Bar on Lake Avenue. If you’re ready for the head-popping experience of genuine wasabi, be sure to ask the next time you cozy up to your favorite sushi chef. If he’s got it, try it. The pain will be gone before you know it, and your sinuses will thank you.

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