For people who can’t deal with spicy food, Japan is fine. You can always order your sushi without the wasabi. The chef might glare at you, but he’ll go ahead and make your sushi anyway.
For people who LOVE spicy food, Japan can be the hot and peppery world of your dreams. On summer days, fighting against the spiciness until you sweat is meant to cool you down.
The Japanese word ‘gekikara’ means ‘fiercely spicy’, and is often seen on the packet of any food from Japan that’s seriously damn hot.
It’s easy to up the spice level at ramen shops in Japan. Some places let you pick the intensity when you order. Sometimes the pot of chili powder or spicy oil gets left out on the table, for you to add as much as you dare. Dining in Japan is always an adventure, especially when you feel like your tongue’s about to fall off.
To recreate that burning feeling at home, pick up some packs of hot Japanese instant ramen. Or the ones that have Korean on the packet, they’re also good.
Remember to actually add the packet of spicy sauce or powder when it’s ready. If it’s not already in there. The flavour of disappointment is totally plain ramen. If you’re not sure whether you wanna go there and do that, just get the T-shirt instead.
The hot yakisoba we’re thinking of is made by Peyang. A company that goes all out to create weird yakisoba flavours. They’ve done maximum coriander, chocolate, natto, and a bunch of others. Some are edible, some… not so much. Here’s a Japanese YouTuber trying to eat 10 of them at once.
Peyang likes to wind people up a bit by having warnings on the pack. For the garlic one, it was ‘don’t eat this while other people are in the room’. For incredibly spicy, it’s ‘do not let kids or wusses eat this’.
Spicy crunchy snacks
If you want a spice kick in your food – but not a full meal – Japan’s got plenty of snacks for you. See those kanji for ‘super spicy’ on the pack, it’s probably an eye-watering snack. Hey, that rhymed…
One good example is ‘hell’s dinner party’. The one furthest to the left. Those are made with habanero peppers, which clock in at 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale. For anyone not familiar with the scale: that’s damn hot. Habanero’s the spice of choice for many snack makers. Even ‘adult premium snack sticks’ have got a habanero twist.
‘Otsumami’ snacks like these are intended to pair with a tall glass of cold beer, after a long day at the office. Trust us, you’re going to need something – anything – to wash these down with.
Spicy curry (seriously)
Japanese-style curry has a reputation for not being spicy enough for some. Curry did come to Japan direct from India, according to the history books, but somehow the recipe’s been given a unique twist. Enough that Japanese-style curry exists alongside Indian-style now.
Enter Glico. You might know that name – Glico makes Pocky! And they also make a Lee beef curry that’s 30 times spicier than normal.
If you’re ever in Japan, go ahead and test your spice tolerance at fast food curry place Coco Ichibanya. They give you the biggest choice of spice levels there. At the very top is Level 10, which is 24x as spicy as Level 1. 24 times. And Level 1 itself is the next up from Normal. You’d better be ready if you’re gonna take on that spice challenge.
Spicy curry… for over 18s
As if being older means you can handle spice better. Going just by the box, this curry can’t be eaten by anyone under the age of 18. Neither can the ‘over 18 only’ curry potato chips from the same range. Hide your kids, especially if you end up loving the taste and don’t wanna share.
Over-18 curry is that special kind of weird Japanese thing that Village Vanguard‘s always got in stock. Interestingly, the box says ‘made for seijin (grown-ups), which is 20 here in Japan. We even have Seijin no Hi in January, celebrating people who are turning 20.
Instead of the ‘gekikara’ kanji, this one uses ‘itakara’ (痛辛) – the ‘ita’ bit is literally ‘ow, that hurts’. It’s also described as ‘the kind of spiciness you can only understand if you’ve tried eating it’. So… give it a go?
There aren’t so many hot sauces actually made in Japan, but you can find them. Like the one made by Onikarashi Blair’s ‘The Hell Company’. Okay then. ‘Onikarashi’ basically means ‘demon spice’ as well. It’s such a rare thing to see, so much so that this brand of sauce has been featured on Japanese TV loads of times.
The name of the sauce is ‘one punch from hell’, which gets auto-translated into English on our website as ‘a hell of a blow’. And above that it says Extra Hot Hell Sauce. Yeah, we get the whole ‘hell’ thing.
Spice is nice?
Believe it or not, some of the spiciest foods, sauces and snacks you can buy online come directly from Japan. Give them a try – if you’re brave enough.