Naturally, Thailand has to figure high on any world ranking, though its hot stuff is often wisely tempered by sweet sauces or cloaked in bland seas of coconut milk. And a quick nibble in Bangkok can never do justice to the Land of Smiles’ pepper addiction. Travel anywhere up-country, and every small-town inn will do its best to knock diners’ socks off with its “jungle curry.” Mosquito repellent won’t protect you from the results. But Thais and tourists alike know that the farther south one goes, the hotter the curries, soups and dipping sauces get, along with the weather. The nam priks (chili dips) prick more, the pleasant stink of the succulent sataw (a sort of Asian lima bean) is always well disguised by thick beds of pepper, and the region’s famed gaeng som, or “sour orange curry,” can become nearly unsippable in the hands of a true southern chef.
Next 2. Sichuanese