Spiciest Dish in Columbus Series: Nong’s Hunan Express
Nothing better than rice with some spice. Well, some things, but not much.
Nong’s Hunan Express is in a bit of a weird location, just around the corner from The Crispy Coop, it’s wedged between Firestone Car Care Center and Cycle614. Largely telling you so you don’t miss it if you head there for takeout. They are taking pickup seriously and have placed tables in front of their counter to ensure six feet of separation. Standing there I noticed the mostly open kitchen and was able to peep fresh vegetables (always a good sign). No other note there really, just always fun to look into kitchens.
As one does, we got an order of the Chicken Curry Puff to get things started. Chicken Stir-Fried with Potato, Curry Powder, and Thai Spice Wrapped in Pasty Puff, Served with Sour Cucumber Sauce. We’ve had some great pastries over the past few weeks from Choripan with their empanadas and Thai Grille with their curry puffs, so these were a bit of a surprise when they turned out to be more crunchy than puffy. Nice filling and the dipping sauce was true to the name with a bit of tanginess that offset the savory innards, but not quite as puffy as we’d typically look for.
For the spiciest dishes, Nong’s is a bit difficult to figure out. There are a lot of dishes with Thai Chili Paste, some with Chili Pepper, some in just a spicy sauce of some variety. On top of that you then have Medium, Hot or Extra Hot to choose from to ratchet it up another level. While we attempted to select the spiciest, it’s possible that there’s another spiciest dish hanging out on this menu, like a buried spicy treasure.
We tried out the Extra Hot Sriracha Fried Rice, Stir-Fried Rice with (Meat of Your Choice) Egg, Pea, Green Onion, Carrot, Sweet Onion, Lettuce, Fresh Mushroom, Bean Sprout, Cucumber and Sriracha Sauce. Fried Rice is toward the top of my comfort food list but thanks to Nida’s Thai on High, my standards are pretty high. This Sriracha Fried Rice from Nong’s is a decent spiciness and the color is as I would expect it to be. Shoveling a few fork-fulls in, I was picking up on the heat, but it flew away pretty quickly. You know that scene in Onward when the dad starts showing up but then it’s just half of his body? That was similar to how this spice hits. It builds and you start to have this anticipation of where it’s going, but as soon as you start overthinking it, the heat disappears. The Sriracha Fried Rice ended up being a couple of meals, but I definitely doused it with a bit of our Ginger Reaper hot sauce to crank it to where I view an “Extra Hot Sriracha” level dish to be.
The second spiciest dish we tried was the Extra Hot Hot Pepper (with Chicken); Sautéed (Meat of Your Choice) with Hot Pepper, Sweet Onion and Green Onion in Chef’s Special Sauce. Stare deep into its onion-y soul and you can see some tiny lil’ pepper flakes within the sauce. The orange-red tint of the oils that infest this spicy-lookin’ dish gave me a good feeling. The Lady of the Farm plucked out a piece of chicken and started a staring contest. As she ate it, a few beads of sweat appeared on her nose, a clear sign that she was feeling the heat. Bad sign, there was no frantic eye movement or grasping for a drink. I unlocked eyes, worried with what I had just witnessed. If she was barely feeling it, was this Extra Hot Hot Pepper not as Pepper Hot Hot Extra as I thought?
I slapped a portion of the Extra Hot Hot Pepper onto a plate with some rice and poured some of the juices over top. Typically that’s where the heat lies, the saucy liquid that some people leave behind, not knowing that they’re missing out on hundreds of lil’ hits of heat (we don’t trust those types of people). Fork ready, I dug in. An initial blast from the special sauce (some concoction of chili oil and other spices we suspect), but similar to the half-dad imagery from the Sriracha Fried Rice, it fizzled. I hung my head. Hot pepper was in the name… it had to be high on our list. All I could hear was Ewan McGregor yelling “YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!” while yeeting this dish down a lava river embankment. The heat subsided, but I finished what I had plated. Each bite was the same. A building heat that caps out lower than expected. Still a good dish, but not going to break our top twenty spiciest.
All things considered, Nong’s is a great choice for takeout while we’re continuing the social distancing fun, so definitely worth a shot. We’d be curious to see if you can find a spicier dish on the menu than the Hot Pepper and Sriracha Fried Rice. If you do, let us know. For us, the level of spiciness on both was comparable, so we won’t rank them individually, but but for now we’re placing Nong’s Hunan Express at #34, just above Amul India’s Lamb Vindaloo and below Smokehouse Brewing’s Gates of Hell Wings. Last we checked they were still doing carryout, but don’t seem to be on any of the delivery sites.
Look below for more in our spiciest dish in Columbus series and hit us up if you have any suggestions that are not already on our list!
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