It's that heady mix of pain and pleasure that makes spicy-hot food so alluring. For some people, there can be no greater thrill than when the tongue throbs, the eyes water and the scalp sweats.
Where do you find the kind of fare that will light you up? Here are four suggestions.
Southern Spice, 1635 Hillside Ave., New Hyde Park, 516-216-5448
Chef-owner Sridhar Rathinam serves up the electric fare from the Chettinad region of South India. Lamb chops detonate a slow and subtle burn, while the chicken vindaloo lives up to the menu description of making you "sweat head to toe."
Yao's Diner, 2503 Middle Country Rd., Centereach, 631-588-2218
At this authentic Northern Chinese dining spot, peanuts and fresh bamboo shoots mellow out the otherwise ringing-hot kung pao chicken. A dish called "sauteed sliced chicken with chili and pepper" is actually chunks of poultry fried to a crunch and heaped with firecracker red chilies. And there's more.
Biscuits & Barbeque, 106 E. Second St., Mineola, 516-493-9797
This welcoming little Southern diner serves a chicken and andouille gumbo to awaken the sleepiest of palates. And the Cajun blackened catfish defines heat mellowed with sweet.
Taste of Africa , 1747 Deer Park Ave., Deer Park, 631-522-1118
Chef Isaac Asare and his wife, Gloria Yeboah, who serve the food of their native Ghana in what is likely Long Island's only African restaurant. It's hard not to like everything you try -- even the fiery-hot pepper soup.