Over the cooler months, our cravings turn to the warming sensation of spicy foods. That fire-cracking quality that ignites both our bellies and our seasonal discourse. Whether it’s a delicate flirtation or a full-throttle pursuit of flaming tastebuds, this is Auckland’s best spicy food that promises to bring some pep to our winter step.
Gochujang Chicken from Gochu
This Commercial Bay eatery has become well-loved for its consistently delicious Korean food, and those familiar with the spot will know that the Gochujang Chicken makes for essential ordering. Served sizzling with a creamy comte sauce, this dish feels like a warm embrace for cold days.
21 Queen Street, Auckland CBD
Spicy Potato Gnocchi from Bar Magda
When we seek out fusion cuisine, this is exactly the kind of dish we find ourselves looking for. This new addition to Bar Magda’s winter menu showcases spiced gnocchi and is the ultimate winter comfort dish. Here, spiced potato gnocchi is served with oyster mushrooms, pickled carrots and scallions, plus healthy helpings of scrambled egg hollandaise and mee goreng sauce, which results in a dish that is both innovative and utterly delicious.
25b Cross Street, Auckland CBD
Beef Short Rib, Laal Maas and Pickled Daikon from Cassia
Showcasing his culinary brilliance, Sid Sahrawat’s curried beef short rib, draws inspiration from a traditional Rajasthani dish called Laal Maas, which translates to red meat curry. The sauce itself has lashings of chilli, and is served atop a bed of tender, slow-cooked meat. Find this indulgent dish at Cassia’s brand new SkyCity location.
90 Federal Street, Auckland CBD
Wok-Seared Eye Fillet with Doubanjiang & Dried Chillies from Ghost Street
With a menu centred around Beijing’s famous food street, it’s easy to find something with a bit of spice at this subterranean eatery. One of our favourites is the perfectly tender wok-seared eye fillet paired with a hot Chinese bean sauce, ginger and celery, finished with dried chillies for an extra layer of heat.
Basement level, Tuawhiti Lane, 27 Galway Street, Britomart
Spicy Sichuan Noodles from Hello Beasty
Hello Beasty’s Spicy Sichuan Noodles offer an elevated take on a truly authentic dish. Here, the noodles come in two iterations; a classic with mustard greens, crispy pork mince, sesame, chilli, roasted peanuts and black vinegar, or vegetarian, with shiitake, choy sum, bok choy, sesame, black vinegar, coriander, spring onion and roasted peanuts — the latter being our preference when we’re craving something a little more virtuous.
95-97 Customs Street West, Auckland CBD
Lamb Chops from Mumbaiwala
After marinating overnight in lime juice, warm dark spices, ginger and garlic, Mumbaiwala’s Lamb Chops are a seriously fragrant and flavoursome iteration of a Kiwi classic. Fired in the tandoor grill, and leaning into the gamey nature of lamb, the chops make an idyllic sharing dish, pairing perfectly with one of the eatery’s famous curries.
252 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
BBQ Jalapeño Poppers, Goats Cheese, Bacon & Bush Honey from Inca
A dish that restaurateur Nic Watt proudly calls “a total crowd pleaser” and “uniquely INCA”, these poppers turn up the heat in all the right ways. Here, the spicy peppers are stuffed with a welcome helping of goats cheese, before being wrapped in bacon, then crisped to a tee, and drizzled with bush honey. A certain kind of trans-seasonal, melt-in-your-mouth delight.
9 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn
Oyster Mushrooms, Ghost Chilli & Macadamias from Kol
Since opening late last year, Kol has cemented itself as the local authority on modern and inspired Indian cuisine. With ample dishes that are always guaranteed to bring the heat, we think an underrated star of the menu is the Oyster Mushrooms. A dish grounded in simplicity, it finds its heat from the addition of ghost chilli (certified as the world’s hottest pepper), and a creamy balance thanks to fresh macadamia.
23 Ponsonby Road, Grey Lynn
Beef Tartare Taco from Ragtag
Leave it to the innovative minds at Ragtag to conjure up a Beef Tartare Taco; a departure from the restaurant’s signature duck fat tortillas. Encased in a hard-shell taco, the spicy meat is a perfect complement to the crunchy texture of the shell and offers a texture and flavour sensation. It is a testament to the versatility and creativity of the Ragtag team, and proves that true culinary innovation often lies in the unexpected.
162 Garnet Road, Westmere
Yum Cha from Huami
Not strictly a singular dish, but rather a collision of warming (and oftentimes spicy) plates, Huami’s Yum Cha feels necessary for winter days like these. You’ll want to round up quite a crowd, as we suggest ordering at a very minimum: the marinated bang-bang chicken and spicy peanut sauce, the wok-fried radish cakes and xo chilli sauce, the beef ball and satay spicy sauce and the deep-fried seven-spice squid & salt and pepper — all catering to a deeply human desire to connect over food.
SkyCity 87 Federal Street, Auckland CBD
Spicy Pork Gyoza from Azabu Ponsonby
These spicy little morsels are an unsung hero of the stalwart’s menu; the kind of dish that is often overlooked, but packs a seriously flavoursome punch. Here, dumplings are stuffed with a healthy helping of succulent pork and spices, before being fried to crispy perfection. The heat comes from Sichuan pepper and aji amarillo, the latter encapsulating the Peruvian influence that
Azabu is renowned for.
26 Ponsonby Road, Grey Lynn
Bibim Naengmyeon from Aigo
Aigo’s Bibim Naengmyeon offers nothing of fusion trends that engulf contemporary cuisine. This dish (available at both the original Ponsonby and new Newmarket locations) is the epitome of authenticity, representing the traditional Korean food culture in all its glory. The cold buckwheat noodles, served with a flavourful broth and an array of toppings, are a refreshing delight that is typically enjoyed alongside Korean BBQ. The addition of a skewer of succulent pork elevates the dish to new heights, reminding us that there is something timeless and comforting about the foods that have been passed down through generations.
168 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby & 2/8 Osborne Street, Newmarket
Crispy Eggplant, Korean Soya & Chilli Glaze from Tokki
This is the kind of dish that has all the hallmarks of a winter warmer. Gently spiced to appease the masses, under the crunchy layers lies soft, melt-in-your-mouth eggplant, of which every bite should be savoured. The Korean soya and chilli glaze adds just the right touch of heat and sweet, and although the intention is for this dish to be shared, it’s not unusual to want an entire serving to yourself.
87 Kitchener Road, Milford
Steak Tartare from Omni
The crown jewel of this perennially chic eatery’s offering is the Beef Tartare, which finds its heat from the welcome addition of ‘nduja. Although sometimes a polarising dish, when served with ample capers, fresh herbs and crispy wonton skins as only Omni could do it, we’d be hard-pressed to find any flaws.
359 Dominion Road, Mount Eden
Rest of the Best
Cheap & Cheerful Eats
Dak Gang Jeong from Ockhee
Packing a gochujang-spiked punch of flavour, Ockhee’s Korean fried chicken is not to be missed, with spice fans sure to love the mouthwatering, spicy soy and sesame glazed chicken; trust us, it brings the heat. We recommend pairing it with the Chun Sa Chae noodle salad for a deliciously fresh contrast.
171 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
Dumplings in Spicy Sauce from Eden Noodles
This Dominion Road outpost is notorious for its noodles, but we’ve also heard that the chefs here handcraft upwards of 3000 dumplings every day. When drowned in the restaurant’s signature spicy sauce, it’s easy to see why. And while one could suggest a side of the cucumber salad for a cooling effect should you seek it, this similarly spiced dish only amps up the heat.
105 Dominion Road, Mount Eden
The OG Sandwich from Peach’s Hot Chicken
Specialising in authentic Nashville hot chicken, Peach’s Hot Chicken is so popular that the former food truck transitioned to a restaurant in East Auckland’s Panmure. Choose your spice level (ranging from mild to Holy Cluck — described as a religious experience) and enjoy it served between two buttery brioche buns with homemade pickles and creamy aioli.
2 Queens Road, Panmure
Boneless Chilli Chicken from Spicy House
Let’s be honest; anything from Balmoral’s Spicy House is sure to satisfy any and all spice cravings. However, the chilli fried chicken served here has made quite a name for itself, and after you taste it, you’ll understand the hype. Seasoned with a copious amount of chilli it has been so perfectly cooked that one taste will have you addicted for life — seriously.
557 Dominion Road, Mount Eden