Traditionally, the Cantonese have never been big on chilies, unlike Beijingers, who took to Sichuan cooking like moths to a flame. But lately, like our political allegiances, Hong Kong tastebuds seem to be more in line with the north, and demanding more ferocious flavors than ever. With new restaurants featuring Chongqing cuisine popping up all over in the past year, we ask: can you handle the heat? 1. Hot Fish To perfect their recipe for Chongqing-style grilled fish, the owners of Yu Heung Grilled Fish went to all the way to Chongqing to bring back the native Sichuan chilies that are the heart and soul of Chongqing cuisine. While they were there, they also learnt the proper way of preparing it. First, a whole grass carp is grilled until it’s 80 percent done, and then it’s served in a fragrant bath of chilli oil extract, fish stock (no MSG) and an assortment of chillis. But eating a whole fish that’s still simmering when it’s brought to your table is a fine art. Start with the belly, as it’s most prone to overcooking, before going for the head, if you’re up for it. You’ll find yourself sweating as the chillies show their true colour—literally. The broth turns a shade of burgundy to match your hot and flustered face. 12 Nga Tsin Long Rd., Kowloon City, 2382-4168. 2. Hot Mess Sheung Shum Sour and Hot Noodles in Sham Shui Po insists on authenticity. It imports cassava and sweet potato powder to make its chewy, spicy noodles. The result? The owners humbly say that their noodles are 92 percent similar to the ones found in Chongqing. They’re blended evenly with chopped pork, peanuts, parsley, and preserved vegetables, and you’ll find a pool of chilli oil at the bottom of the bowl. Also sample their “saliva chicken,” with its complex layers of flavors, including a variety of chillies and the Sichuan peppercorn, which has an alkaline pH value and a numbing effect when eaten in large quantities. The local anaesthetic, combined with the fiery heat of the dish work together to make your salivary glands work overtime—hence the dish’s name. Cooked Food Plaza, Sun Tsui Estate, Tai Wai, 2699-1680. 3. Spicy Skewers The main draw of the Chung King BBQ Restaurant in Jordan is their secret marinade. It’s a combination of twenty herbs and spices that bring out a multitude of flavors in their barbecue items. Seafood choices include tiger prawns, mussels and scallops (though our personal favorites were the ox tounge and the crunchy white eel), all topped with garlic and chillies. But it’s not all about the meat. Vegetarians will be pleased with the choices on offer here, from the thick-cut tomatoes with purple salt and spices, the seasoned corn-on-the-cob, seared pineapple and honey-glazed bananas. Just thank the kitchen god that they have Hoegaarden on tap to quench that fire in your mouth. 20 Man Ying St., Ferry Point, Jordan, 2836-3672. 4. Spices in Sheung Wan Ariel Sichuan BBQ Restaurant has literally spiced up Sheung Wan’s otherwise bland dining scene. Its signature dishes include grilled chicken and grass carp, served in a casserole of chilies, green onions, scallions and fish broth. And just like in a hotpot dinner, you can add rice noodles, dau pok (fried bean curd puffs), lotus root and other ingredients to absorb the soup’s essence as the whole dish stews. Other specialties include the grilled squid tentacles and their “special chicken wings,” with sesame seeds and a fierce spicy chili dipping sauce. You can also try the “water-boiled beef,” which is anything but boiled in water—it’s actually swimming in a pot of paralyzing Sichuan peppercorns and a kickass chilli oil. Shop A18, Broadway Plaza, 2-12 Queen’s Rd. West, Sheung Wan, 2851-7397.