Spice of Life


sol1Spicy food has always been on the menu, tracing back hundreds and even thousands of years. The desire for spice is ingrained in our past as Americans. After all, that same desire changed the course of history when Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the Americas along his voyages in search for spices. Fast forward to the present, and it is clear that love for spices has only grown.

If you are the type of food connoisseur with a thrill-seeking pallet, then you’re always in search of a dish spicy enough to test your tolerance. No matter which culture you are from, or what type of food you crave, each style of food – whether Asian, American or Cajun – has their take on mildly, medium or daringly spicy dishes. These San Joaquin restaurants have dishes that are sure to satisfy your taste buds, and even clear your sinuses. We gathered our resources in search of the area’s spiciest must-try dishes just for you.

Jamaican Jerk Plate
Breadfruit Tree
8095 N. Rio Blanco Rd., Stockton

With a restaurant like Breadfruit Tree, there’s no need to step outside of San Joaquin County for a taste of South Atlantic cuisine. The restaurant, serving an exclusively Caribbean-style menu, has perfected rich, savory and colorful creations from the Islands for more than 24 years. Customers can choose from a broad range of “Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and French style dishes,” among other influences, says Chef Louis Byone. As for a must-try dish, we chose the Jamaican Jerk Plate, which comes in a variety of spicy levels.

This plate is prepared with a homemade marinade, and chicken polished with both dry and wet rubs. Hot and flavorful peppers, and spices such as cloves, are then added. The ingredients are charbroiled before being drenched with sauces and finished with a mesquite flavor. “It is hot,” says Chef Byone, “but we can make it really hot. It depends on the person, we can always make it spicier [upon request].”

Cameron Ranchero
Habanero Hots
1024 E. Victor Rd., Lodi

Serving a TexMex twist since 1981, Habanero Hots is appropriately named after its spicy offerings. Upon entering the restaurant, you’re greeted with more than 200 different kinds of hot sauces. Some so hot, you have to sign a waiver. Although the restaurant is loaded with spicy choices, we recommended the Cameron Ranchero plate. The Cameron Ranchero is prepared with jumbo prawns, sautéed with red and green peppers, fresh garlic and Roma tomatoes topped with cilantro and jack cheese. It’s finished with a hint of chili powder, cayenne and habanero. Although it isn’t too spicy, says owner John DeNigris, customers can make it hotter by “kicking it up a little and bringing out the big guns,” which are only served upon request. If you’re up for a spicier challenge, DeNigris mentions the “beat the heat’ challenge, in which thousands of people from all over the world have participated in.

Tilapia Salad
Tracy Thai
1035 Central Ave., Tracy

Colorful entrees with kicks of spice define the very essence of Thai food. And at Tracy Thai – they certainly deliver. The restaurant, open since 2007, is a local gem for Thai-food lovers alike. Other than the impressive curries and spicy sauces, dishes served in fire pots, and even their incredible iced tea, we recommend the newest addition to the menu, the Tilapia Salad to cure you of your spiciest desires.

The fresh Tilapia dish is prepared by dipping the fish in a homemade batter, and fried. It is then laid on a bed of salad made from apples, cashews, both red and green onions and topped with a homemade chili oil vinaigrette. The vibrant flavor of this dish is brought out with the kick of spice from the salad. The meal comes in a variety of spice levels – prepared specially to each customer’s request. Make it as hot as you like it!

Hot & Spicy Spaghetti Paired with Southwestern Chicken
Angelina’s Spaghetti House
1563 E. Fremont St., Stockton

Angelina’s Spaghetti House has long been a staple in the Central Valley since first opening its doors in 1976. The Genovese style cooking and recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. The restaurant serves every Italian classic from pasta to sandwiches, seafood and even spicy spaghetti. For this reason, the Hot and Spicy Spaghetti paired with Southwestern style chicken comes highly recommended.
The sauce is an extra spicy take on their traditional marinara “with chilies and spices such as paprika, cayenne and mustard, added to make it a hotter version,” says co-owner Sam Taylor. The dish is prepared with grilled chicken, pasta with carrots, celery, parsley and garlic, served with a side of seasonal grilled veggies. And if that isn’t enough, “of course you can make it hotter by sprinkling extra chili to top it off.

Fire in the Hole
Asian-Cajun Crawfish
95 W. 11th St., Suite 103, tracu

Asian Cajun has made a name for itself by serving seafood with Cajun style sauces and seasoning. For seafood with a kick, try the restaurant’s ‘Fire in the Hole’ sauce, which can be added to any seafood boil such as shrimp, crab, crawfish, clams and mussels. The sauce is blended with Cajun seasoning, then mixed with butter made fresh at the restaurant before adding ghost chilies – known to be some of the hottest in the world. Customers have a choice between mild, medium and spicy – the spiciest requires a waiver. “[The sauce is] very, very hot. It’s a flavorful hot, just enough to set your mouth on fire, but still taste the seafood,” says owner and operator Jeremy Magtoto.

Cajun Chicken Tortellini
French 25
110 N. El Dorado St., Stockton

New to Stockton since April 2013, French 25 specializes in New Orleans Southern inspired cuisine with a Californian twist. With a Cajun influence in each dish, each is bound to be spicy and flavorful. If you dare, we suggest the spiciest dish on the menu – the Cajun Chicken Tortellini. The dish is sautéed, and prepared with a blend of Cajun cream that is made in house, says managing partner Greg May. It is then tossed with butter and mixed with more hot blackened spices, which are kept secret! Next, the pre-spiced chicken is added. The dish is topped with fresh tomatoes and shredded parmesan cheese. “This dish is spicy all around,” says May, “nobody ever comes back and says it isn’t hot enough. It’s hot, but the flavor is really deep.”

Green Papaya Salad
Bangkok Restaurant
3255 W. Hammer Ln., Stockton

This family owned and operated business has served old-world style Thai food since opening in 1987. Although there are plenty of dishes worth trying, the Green Papaya Salad is highly recommended, and comes in either Thai or Lao style. The plate is prepared with shredded and cooled papaya, making it crunchy, says co-owner Tevy Soeu. Then fish sauce, lime juice, tomatoes, fresh Thai chili peppers, sugar, fermented crab paste, and fresh garlic are added. If you opt for the Thai style, peanuts and dried shrimp are included to the dish. The plate comes in mild, medium or spicy. Because it is made fresh, says Soeu, customers can make it as spicy as they’d like or omit the chilies if they wish. “It is easy to adjust,” adds Soeu, “The more spice, the more flavor.”

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