The Carolina reaper pepper is currently considered the hottest pepper in the world, measuring anywhere from 1.5 to over 2 million SHU on the Scoville scale, a scale created by Wilbur Scoville in the early 1900s to measure the pungency of chili peppers. For reference, a bell pepper is a 0; a jalapeño can be up to 8,000. While I usually have absolutely no desire to even get near a Carolina reaper, Renton’s Yummy Meats & Deli features the pepper on its X-hot Nashville fried chicken.
“It’s the spiciest chicken in Seattle,” says Andy Hsu, manager for the restaurant, owned by Shan Li.
Li opened in mid-August after a few years spent perfecting his take on Nashville hot chicken. There are a few things that make Yummy Meats & Deli a standout besides that Carolina reaper. First, the spice blend in Li’s take on Nashville hot chicken includes Szechuan peppercorns, creating a slight numbing effect to go with all that capsaicin heat. The second is the size of the small chicken sandwich, which combines a regular-size bun with an almost comically large fried chicken tender that juts out from the bun at all angles ($6.50). The sandwiches also have a crunchy, vinegar slaw and “comeback sauce,” which has a nice mix of sweetness and spice to it.
Chicken combos range from $9-$17, spiced to your liking and served with a few slices of white bread and pickles. The original is a crunchy, well-seasoned fried chicken with no heat added, while the mild has a small kick to it. The breading maintained its crunch even after my half-hour drive home, and the chicken was tender and juicy. There are also kids meals and a handful of sides, including mac and cheese, slaw and fries.
The X-hot even smells spicy. I took one bite with the benefit of slaw and soft, squishy bun and thought, “Hmm. This isn’t too bad?” But the X-hot is a creeper; those blissful few seconds before the heat really set in were enough to lull me into taking another bite before I really knew what I’d done. My mouth was so scorched, filtered water tasted sweet. My lips were numb for 20 minutes. I did not go back for a third bite. It wasn’t all heat either, there is actual flavor in that chicken.
While I won’t be repeating the X-hot, the mild was enough to have me wishing Renton wasn’t such a far drive from my home. Lucky for me, Hsu says they’ve been working on opening a Lynnwood location, with plans to be dishing up lip-tingling chicken on the north side by the end of 2020. In the meantime, order online for pickup in Renton and try “Seattle’s spiciest chicken sandwich” … if you dare.
11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 509 S. Third St., Unit B, Renton; 425-271-1418, yummyspicy888.com.
But, along with wonderfully crisp fried chicken, Renton also offered up incredible garlic fried rice, perfectly cooked shrimp dumplings and rich vegetable tikka masala.
11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; 202 S.W. 43rd St., Renton; 425-251-6111, himalayancaferenton.com
I love a good tikka masala, and the one at Himalayan Cafe really packs a ton of variety into the vegetable version, complete with zucchini, carrots, peas and tomato in a decadent tomato butter sauce ($14.56). Also great is the Nepalese kukhura ko masu ($17.68), a chicken curry with ginger, garlic and tomatoes, plus all the wonderful warming spices of cardamom, clove and bay leaf. Both are served with a fragrant cardamom rice. If you love dumplings, I’d also recommend adding on an order of the tender chicken momos ($11.44). This small strip-mall shop isn’t open for dining in; call or order online for pickup.
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 3750 E. Valley Road, Renton; 425-572-6612, triumph-valley.com
I don’t know when I’ll be ready to be back in a restaurant for dim sum, waiting on that little cart filled with delectable bites to come through. Luckily, Triumph Valley has an entire dim sum menu ready for takeout and delivery. You can also dine in if you’re ready — the massive restaurant also serves hot pot with unlimited broth and ramen (both also available to go), and they’re taking temperature checks at the door. However, I wanted to fill up on shrimp dumplings ($5.50), pork and shrimp siu mai ($4.50), little pear-shaped deep-fried pork dumplings ($4.35), shrimp rice rolls ($5.25), and chive and shrimp dumplings ($4.95). It was a perfect feast filled with delicate steamed dumplings with juicy middles. Every tiny shrimp still had a nice snap — even when I had to re-steam a few leftovers the next day.
Mekenie Pampangga’s Special
10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday; 16928 116th Ave. S.E., Renton; 206-317-9542, mekenieps.com
Of all the crispy fried rolls in the world, the little cigarillo that is the Filipino lumpia might be my favorite. The ones at Mekenie Pampangga’s Special ($7.49 for 10) are packed with crispy pork and vegetables, fried until golden brown, and best eaten alone in your car before anyone asks you to share. Otherwise you’ll have to get two orders (not a bad thing either!). Also delightful is the garlic rice ($2.56) and the lechon kawali ($12.96), succulent morsels of deep fried pork belly served with classic, tangy Mang Tomas sauce.