Global warming aside, 2016 was a pretty hot year. To clarify, it's been a pretty spicy year. We've witnessed a huge surge in the spicy foods trend recently and couldn't be happier to see people appreciating the heat.
There's nothing like a peppery plate to get your sweat glands going and your senses on high-alert. Let's take a look at what's been happening these last 12 months.
Hot Cheetos Everywhere
Everyone and their mothers have been using Hot Cheetos as a secret ingredient in their recipes this year. Actually, the fiery corn snack has been in the spotlight for a couple of years now, but they're still going strong. Arguably the hottest and easiest to find of commercial chips, these pepper dusted snacks are the guilty pleasure treats to many patrons.
You can pretty much toss these crimson corn puffs on anything and it'll be considered trendy. Case in point:
A pretty sizable amount of YouTube videos and Facebook Live Streams have featured some form of spicy food challenge this year.
We even got fellow Foodbeast Elie to try FOUR Carolina Reaper Chips from Paqui. The fiery pepper-encrusted snack food is so spicy that it only comes in a serving of one. It also doesn't help that the packaging is in the shape of a coffin.
Spicy food challeneges weren't limited to chips though. In fact, many spots had their own champion in the world of heat.
Fellow Foodbeast Reach Guinto and Wally Vu recently went to Koreatown to try Ddukbokki, a dish of rice cakes made with the fabled Ttangcho pepper, known as the spiciest pepper in all of Korea.
Heck, even the hand-roll spot down the street from our office has a mega-spicy tuna roll for the bravest of patrons. According to Reach, however, it was nowhere near as hot as the Ddukbokki.
Nashville Hot Chicken
Nashville hot chicken started off as a Tennessee staple. The iconic dish was rumored to have been created in the 1930s as a means of revenge on a womanizer who was expecting a breakfast of fried chicken. What the man didn't expect was that it was cooked with extra hot pepper, which he was shockingly delighted by.
The dish itself features cuts of chicken marinated in a liquid-based (water or buttermilk) blend of seasoning that's fried, floured, and bearded. Once it's out of the fryer, a sauce featuring cayenne pepper is added to the piping hot chicken and served with pickle chips and slices of white bread.
For those who aren't down for fast food imitations – though KFC's version is pretty damn tasty – hit up Howlin' Ray's (for those in the Los Angeles area), which usually boasts an hour-long line if you're lucky.
If you're fortunate enough to live in Nashville, you probably have a better idea where to get your hands on some quality hot chicken.
Why So Spicy?
There could be a number of reasons why spicy foods have been on the up and up this year. People's palates have possibly grown accustomed to the heat and are eager to test their boundaries with every new "hot" dish they try.
What's more, spicy foods are a way for eaters to come together and socialize over the idea of trying something scary and exciting. The adrenaline rush of not knowing how your body will handle the heat can be exhilarating for some people, while others will just succumb to peer pressure just to be a part of the culture.
The pride of being able to handle spicy dishes better than your friends can also play a major role in why "spicy challenges" are trending more and more. Sometimes, it's just nice to know you can take the heat better than your colleagues.