Heat rules everything around us in Houston, our food included. It’s in the crimson red Asia Town dishes laced with mouth-tingling Sichuan peppercorns. In the Mexican salsas flecked with raw jalapeño pepper seeds. In West African stewed meat often heated up by Scotch bonnet chiles, and just about anything Thai. The following dishes are your entryway into H-Town Heat; an ode to all things chile peppers—those radiant fruits laced with capsaicin, the chemical compound that makes spice possible—which actually help keep us cool in the summer by heating our stomachs up and forcing us to sweat. Science! So pour some milk, protect your hands—touch not your nose or eyes—and let’s fire it up. These are our favorite hot foods in Houston from mild to scorching.