Playing With Fire
They say playing with fire is dangerous, but when it comes to eating flavor-packed food, that certainly isn’t the case.
Spicy foods have so much to offer, from exciting our taste buds to making our bodies happy — and, believe it or not, they are the best remedy for this scorching-hot weather.
That’s right, that last part wasn’t a typo. Though it seems counterintuitive to grab some hot sauce rather than ice cream on a blazing summer day, the heat of chili peppers actually can cool you down from head to toe. By consuming spicy foods, your brain starts to sing The Merrymen’s refrain: “Feeling hot, hot, hot!” And as a result, your body is signaled to produce sweat, its own innate cooling mechanism.
Now, I know a little perspiration during lunch or dinner might sound questionable, but when you consider the cleansing benefits of this naturally detoxifying process, it’s really just an extra dose of healthiness to accompany your meal.
It’s no wonder spicy foods are staples in some of the hottest countries in the world, and right here on Oahu, we have our own spicy remedies calling our names:
LET’S FIRE IT UP!
From sweet-chili and buffalo sauces to a nice douse of Tobasco, hot sauces are the easiest way to heat up your meal in no time. In recent years, the world over has fallen in love with Thai condiment Sriracha, arguably the most popular hot sauce of them all.
At Applebee’s — which recently came to Hawaii with locations in Ewa Beach and Ka Makana Alii in Kapolei — Sriracha makes its way into a number of must-order dishes at the Americana-inspired dining establishment.
For starters, pick up a piece or two (or all 10!) of Sriracha Shrimp ($11.50), an appetizer that gets its heat-factor from barbecue spices and a creamy Sriracha-lime sauce. The sauce, specifically, gives the panko-coated shrimp a finger-lickin’ good glaze.
Kitchen manager Carlos Buhain likens the shrimp in this dish to “Chinese-style Honey Walnut Shrimp, but with a kick,” he describes, and I would have to agree.
He also shares that the same panko-coated shrimp are used in a new pasta selection, Firecracker Shrimp Cavatappi ($16.49). The dish also features the creamy Sriracha slathering from the aforementioned pupu, but here it’s incorporated into the pasta sauce, along with sautéed vegetables and a hint of Parmesan.
These dishes aren’t too spicy, so they’re great for hot-sauce novices. “Everything we serve is ‘user friendly’ — some people want a little more adventure, so these are two dishes that I would always recommend,” Buhain confirms.
Ono, You Know recently enjoyed these menu items within Applebee’s modern dining atmosphere in Kapolei. The fresh setting coupled with friendly customer service make for a fabulous dining experience.
Applebee’s at Ka Makana Alii
91-5431 Kapolei Pkwy., Kapolei (also located in Ewa Beach)
CAN YOU FEEL THE HEAT?
In addition to imparting fiery flavor into any and every meal, the capsaicin in chili peppers are associated with cancer prevention, lowering blood pressure and revving up your metabolism.
Sometimes the best way to get that dose of heat is to slurp it up in a bowl of delectable ramen. At Junpuu, diners may choose their spice level; up to five is free, but the spice levels increase all the way to 100, which owner Eiji Kato claims might just be the spiciest ramen on the island.
Chili peppers are used for spice levels up to 10, but after that, even spicier ingredients such as ghost and Carolina Reaper peppers bring extreme heat.
It’s best to start out with Spicy Miso Ramen ($10.50), which comes at spice level one, but can be made hotter, depending on your preference. This miso-infused, pork-based soup is striking for its bright-red color, hinting at the Japanese and Korean chili peppers mixed inside it. Noodles, pork-belly char siu, bamboo shoots and a blend of red and green onions round out the dish.
Another red-hot selection is Spicy Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen ($10; starts at spice level one), which is similar to Spicy Miso Ramen, but highlights Kato’s “straight-up pork broth,” as he calls it. The broth is part of the quintessential Junpuu experience, and to make it, the bones are cleaned and pre-cooked first to remove any gaminess, then cooked on high heat for 16 hours to result in a clean, smooth and richly flavored soup.
“I recommend starting with spice level one because that way, you can still taste the flavor of the broth,” says Kato.
Street parking is available near Junpuu, but the eatery also validates at the Medical Arts Building lot for up to an hour until 5 p.m. on weekdays (free after 5 p.m.) and noon Saturdays and Sundays (free afternoon).
1010 S. King St., Honolulu