Spicy Miso Ramen from Santouka ($7.50-9.50)
When you breathe in the sesame-scented bowl of spicy miso ramen at Santouka, tucked in the Mitsuwa food court, thank a discerning Japanese-American community for ramen shops that are on par with many you'd find in Tokyo. The spicy miso ramen starts with a rich tonkotsu pork broth, with a bold miso paste adding spice and balanced saltiness. Chewy curls of kikurage (jelly ear) and striated bamboo shoots top the al dente noodles, with tender slices of fatty cha-shu pork as a finishing touch. Cash only.
Spice level: Beginner
3760 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066; 310-391-1101; Santouka.co.jp
Oxtail with Reggae Sauce from Front Page Jamaican Grille ($13)
This oxtail combo, pungent with allspice and garlic, features a generous heaping of steaming chunks of fall-apart oxtail doused in a deep and glossy gravy with a gentle but persistent heat. Ask for the housemade Fanta-colored Scotch Bonnet "Reggae" sauce on the side, so you have the option to step up the spice level from a comfortable burn to face-fanning hot with an extra spicy vinegar kick.
Spice level: Amateur or advanced
1117 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood, CA 90301; 310-216-9521; frontpagejamaicangriille.com
Chile Relish Egg from Simpang Asia ($2)
Simpang Asia offers a unique option for spice lovers: a fiery, chili relish egg. The egg is first hard-boiled, then deep fried, and then fried again in sambal, a spicy, vinegary Indonesian chili paste. Deep frying the egg gives it a chewy, if pleasant, exterior. You'll never look at a hard-boiled egg the same way again.
Spice level: Intermediate
10433 National Blvd #2, Los Angeles, CA 90034; 310-815-9075; simpangasia.com
Lamb Curry Combo from Jasmine Market ($10)
The tender, cumin-infused chunks of lamb in this curry stew can be cut with a plastic spoon at hole-in-the-wall Jasmine Market, one of L.A.'s only Burmese/Indian restaurants. You'll forgive the plastic cutlery with each bite of long-simmered lamb with familiar flavors of ginger and garlic. The underlying heat of the dish is accumulative and entirely welcome
Spice level: Advanced
4135 1/2 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230; 310-313-3767
Doro Wat from Fresh Ethiopian Restaurant ($12)
Fresh Ethiopian Restaurant's Doro Wat is a rich stew of chicken and hard-boiled eggs smothered in ginger, black pepper and cloves. The act of eating Doro Wat is an intense aromatic experience, thanks to the complicated blend of spices and heat from cayenne, smoky paprika, and red chili flakes. But the accompanying injera (Ethiopian sourdough flabread) and fresh cheese helps mute some of the spiciness.
Spice level: Advanced
1580 Centinela Ave. Inglewood, CA 90302; 310-674-1545
Chile Toreado Taco from Guisados ($2.50)
Ready for the ultimate spicy challenge? Guisados starts with a freshly ground, puffy masa taco, then tops it with strands of smoky grilled habanero, serrano, and Thai chiles. If that weren't enough, they drown the result in habanero sauce. This taco comes with a 10-star warning. Your tongue will feel like you've taken a thousand jackhammers to it. Promise.
Spice level: Suicidal/nuclear
2100 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033; 323-264-7201; www.guisados.co