Some Like It (Ridiculously) Hot

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p>As long as I’ve been on here, I’ve blogged about food. And I love hotttttt food. I always thought Amma’s cooking was spicy enough. Apparently not!

A restaurant in London is out to set the record for the world’s hottest curry. Naga_Jolokia_Peppers.jpg

The Bollywood Burner contains the hottest chili pepper in the world: the Naga. From the story:

[It's] a lamb-based dish with a fierce kick.

The curry is so hot that diners are asked to sign a disclaimer confirming they are aware of the risks involved before daring to eat it.

The Bollywood Burner is being submitted to Guinness World Records for verification of its status as the planet’s hottest curry.

According to the story, the student who tried it first says, “”The initial taste isn’t that hot but now, a couple of minutes later, I feel a bit floaty and light-headed.” A reporter says, “At first, it tasted delicious. Then my mouth caught fire. It even made me feel dizzy.” Another reporter says it sent his heart rate racing from a resting pace to the equivalent of doing aerobic exercise. (Terrifyingly, Wikipedia says that one of the few things hotter on the Scoville scale than the Naga is standard U.S. pepper spray.)

Spice-induced pain (pleasure?) fascinates me, and it appears to draw a crowd. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of someone having to sign a disclaimer to eat spicy food. A vegetarian friend of mine went to Hell Night at a restaurant in Boston awhile back and had to sign one before eating his noodles.

Food seems like another way we measure the strongest, the fastest, the fittest, the best. And I’ll admit that sometimes, when I tell people Sri Lankan food is spicy, I’m saying it with a bit of a dare behind my words. But why is food a test we have to pass? In recent years, I’ve tried to tone it down, mostly because it seems like my penchant for pepper could be giving me an internal third-degree. Everything in moderation, right?

That seemed to work well at a recent Sri Lankan-themed potluck held at the home of DKG, with contributions from four people.

potluck.jpg

Starting at top left and going clockwise, two dishes of R’s upuma; A’s keerai curry (spinach); R’s dal/ parippu (lentils); A’s channa masala (not Sri Lankan, we know, but it’s so good); my mushroom curry ; my chicken curry; DKG’s shrimp curry, decorated with eggs; A’s saffron rice with raisins, onions and cashews. At center, a summer salad that DKG could not resist making. (What if there wasn’t enough food for four? :) ) R, one of those in attendance, made a persuasive argument against excessive spice. Nothing we made really brought the heat Amma-style—but it was pleasantly tingly, enough so that at the end of the meal, I was happy to cut the afterburn with A’s caramel pudding (below).

caramel pudding.jpg

What’s the hottest curry you’ve ever made or eaten? Have you ever eaten something competitively hot a la the Bollywood Burner or Hell Night? Do you judge those who can’t take the heat? ;)

Aside: (For the record, it seems that any metabolic kick one gets from spicy food is negligible. Indeed, testing of Indian takeout in Britain seems to indicate it is worse for you than other kinds of food.)

UPDATE, Sunday, July 13: See related post Gimme Some o’ that Hot Stuff.

48 thoughts on “Some Like It (Ridiculously) Hot

  1. I was in canada a couple of years back (not sure where) with my then wife and her family. Her parents preferred indian food, so naturally being the good guy I would find an indian restaurant every night during our trip. we went to this one place one night. The restaurant had a south indian name. The waiter was nepalese. The cook was from bangladesh. The dish we oredered was madras chicken curry. Both my then brother in law and myself eat spicy food and love it. We both had one bite with some naan. we both had another bite. OMG. that was it. we were literally crying and sweat was pouring out of all pores. i thought i was dead!

  2. Don’t judge those who can’t take the heat!! Medium spicy is fine, but I really can’t take the heat, much to my friend’s amusement. This curry is meant to be a killer. That fact that you got to sign the form first should be the red light.

    Spiciest curry was an egg curry I had in New Jersey. May not be a test to many people’s thresholds but it tested mine. Probably the spiciest but you could still taste the food.

    By the way as cool as it sounds, shitting fire is never a good thing!!

  3. Wow, what an appetizing spread, Sugi. As it also turns out, the competitively hot things I’ve eaten have been at Sri Lankan restaurants. But the keerai (spinach) dish – didn’t know the name before – calms you down considerably.

    The Caramel Custard may well be the British gastronomic legacy to the subcontinent, spread to all regions – in this sense the ‘dual’ of the ‘Indian curry’ to Britain, and interestingly, carried by the subcontinental diaspora into North America. Simple and delicious, and obviously in high demand! Some of the most popular recipe sites for Caramel Custard are provided by desis. Here’s one by a Pakistani cooking show by a male chef, interestingly, for a Ramzaan special – and an even simpler recipe, adapted for North America, by another desi.

    Well, off to dinner now!

  4. Funnily enough, with three small kids in the family, the only hot curries we ever eat these days are at the four-times-a-year gatherings organized by a local (Illangai-dominated) Tamil society. After weeks of bland kid-friendly foods at our home, my husband and I welcome the assault on our taste buds.

  5. . Here’s one by a Pakistani cooking show by a male chef,

    Thats Sanjeev Kapoor from the Indian show called Khana Khazana. He also designed the “hindu meal” on Singapore Airlines.

  6. Do you judge those who can’t take the heat? ;)

    I do, although I’m not proud of it. After all, I haven’t been part of the authenticity brigade since the time when I was 5yrs old and my uncle accused me of not being Indian for preferring to sit rather than squat.

    Anyway, I have an ABCD friend who’s more authentic than a FOB McKinsey consultant and we decided to grab some Indian food after work. And I’m not talking Amma or fusion or any place where the interior looks like it was done by Mies Van der Rohe. I’m talking Christmas decorations on the ceiling.

    So I hand him the menu to order since I like to go Omakase in the presence of an expert and he starts rattling off dishes while the waiter nods approvingly. Then he comes out with a “can you make it extra-mild.” Confused and shaken, the waiter turns to me and searches my eyes for an explanation. I could only muster up a subtle shrug.

    I hadn’t been this embarrassed since the time my date tried to order a California Roll at one of those sushi bars where even Hideki Matsui would have to wait for a spot.

    If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the…

  7. 6 · Manju said

    Anyway, I have an ABCD friend who’s more authentic than a FOB McKinsey consultant

    LOL

  8. i can eat this sh*t. i’ve been tarded enough to try pure cap. the main reason i don’t eat habaneros everyday is that i’m usually a bit slow in the morning afterward and the productivity drag isn’t justifiable. anyone want to challenge me to a pepper-off, you know where to reach me; i’m there.

  9. Razib:

    i’ve been tarded enough to try pure cap.

    What’s it like? Particularly its characteristics for attack, peak, sustain and decay? For instance, wasabi is rapid attack, high peak, low sustain and rapid decay, so that you get assaulted for two seconds and then the taste leaves and never calls you again, leaving you to wonder if it was a dream. Peppercorns are slow attack, moderately high peak, long sustain and slow decay, like the person around the office who’s easy to overlook but can harbor a grudge for years and make others’ lives progressively miserable, but they can never point to a specific incident when their lives became worse. Along those lines, what’s capsaicin like?

  10. I ate 2 keema somosa’s, lamb curry, and 2 parathas tonght b/c of this post. washed it down with shiraz. If I never get invited on Oprah, I’ll blame V.V.

  11. Damn, VV, that looks like a fine spread. Something tells me that there were boys and girls at your little party – is that true? That’s often something overlooked when talking about cooking and Asian cuisine, or any type of food for that matter – the fact that there are many men that can cook, even second generation guys that can cook the pants off of people. Sometimes South Asian aunts and uncles completely forget that – they often assume that in the younger generation that only the women cook – since that’s how it pretty much works in their generation. Anyways, that shrimp curry looks particularly fantastic as does the mushroom curry – do you have either recipe? Mmmmmmmmm….sapadungoh!

  12. when food is wayyy to spicy, its not tasty anymore, you’re just forcing yourself to eat the meal you put too much spices into because you couldn’t resist yourself then. yeah, i don’t like eating foo that is over the top spicy, but i do like to taste it to see how much i can take it. And yes, i mst definitely judge people who can’t handle spicy food. Everybody may not like it but everybody can handle non spicy food but not all can handle spicy food. so that makes you wayy more awesome..hehe..jk. yeah, but i do judge when it comes to that.

  13. Anyway, I have an ABCD friend who’s more authentic than a FOB McKinsey consultant

    Haha!

  14. Umm.. Those suicide chilli fish curries used to mask the taste of cheap toddy in our school days in Kerala. Those ‘shap’ curries were hot to make you thirsty. These curries are for image.

    “Image is nothing. Thirst is everything – Obey your thirst.” (‘sprite’ copyright)

  15. I ate 2 keema somosa’s, lamb curry, and 2 parathas tonght b/c of this post. washed it down with shiraz.

    Methinks Manju’s been trying to impress the desis here with how well he is eating and drinking in America, the land of plenty :)

    Dude, is this you get off on a Saturday night?

  16. the hottest item i’ve ever had was chana dal at a local gurdwara. it was a weekday and the gurdwara itself is newish and caters to a small congregation, so the bhai’s were cooking for themselves and one unexpected drifter (moi). and like me, they cook in parts, not sums, meaning all ingredients have to be accounted for, followed by a hope that the experiment, and its always an experiment, is edible. so the ginger was chunky, the haldi was overbearing, the cilantro wasn’t minced, and the bhai’s couldn’t find serrano peppers at the supermarket so they bought habanero peppers from a roadside farmer nearby. habaneros in chana dal! they could handle it with 1 dixie cup of water and little sweat, but i…well, i survived and i’d do it again.

  17. I find spicy food delectable. Unfortunately I have an auto-immune disease which is triggered by, you guessed, spicy food(among others). Since I’ve stopped taking it for the past few years I’ve lost my appetite for it. So it is definitely a no-no, and a big problem when I visit India these days is to make it clear that even extra mild might just be too hot! Yet another nail in the coffin of authenticity :) I’m not as bad as the Dutch though ;)

  18. “And I’ll admit that sometimes, when I tell people Sri Lankan food is spicy, I’m saying it with a bit of a dare behind my words. “

    i’ve done that way too many times and probably pay the karmic price every time I hit my usual Thai place and they give me the demonic grin before delivering a plate.

    i’d have to say amma’s Lamb Paal Poriyal (supposedly quite mild, but somehow ends up as the devil’s daily bath) made with that ole special perumcheeraga thool (it came from toronto, i am still to research the ingredient list).

    and was this Naga curry made with the Bhut Jolokia?

    Razib,

    have you tried the Dave’s Insanity hot sauce that comes in a coffin? I haven’t been brave enough to try but apparently you hallucinate for short while.

  19. gorgeous pictures, btw, although I can’t handle the parippu in excess anymore (and socialize.)

  20. Eater, there were boys and girls at our party. I actually asked each participant to share their recipes (both for the Mutiny and because I wanted them) and the shrimp curry maker, DKG, declined. DKG is one of the best cooks I know, and he is male. He actually invented the shrimp curry that day—I don’t know any aunty who makes it this way, and R also wanted the recipe afterwards. R is also male; his upuma and dal were fantastic. (A and I both wanted him to make upuma, although it is more of a breakfast/lunch food than a dinner item.) A is female and a great great great cook; I particularly loved her keerai curry, and I don’t even normally LIKE keerai.

    Normally I think I am a pretty good cook, but these three people reminded me that for a Sri Lankan, I might just be average. I think Sri Lankan potlucks are now going to be a regular feature of my life, and to say I’m happy about it would be an understatement. :)

    As for the mushroom curry, that is the invention of a relative of mine from Australia who visited my parents last year and taught my mother the recipe. Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, but this was the first time I’d made it. I’ll do a separate comment and share some recipes—A provided hers too. The mushroom curry was probably the spiciest item at our feast.

  21. even second generation guys that can cook the pants off of people.

    That’s why we learned. It’s not just the way to a guy’s heart … it’s the way to a ‘s _. ;)

  22. chachaji said:

    The Caramel Custard may well be the British gastronomic legacy to the subcontinent, spread to all regions – in this sense the ‘dual’ of the ‘Indian curry’ to Britain, and interestingly, carried by the subcontinental diaspora into North America.

    Here are some others: trifle pudding, bread pudding, P.G. Wodehouse. Ok, the last is not food though some probably think it is. Back in college, I was the only one who correctly identified the mystery dessert one evening–a very foul bread pudding, which in America is sometimes passed off as gourmet food.

  23. Would it be possible for you to post the recipes to the dishes mentioned above? If not all at least the spinach and mushroom curries?

    Thanks.

  24. 18 · gluttony_is_a_sin said

    Dude, is this you get off on a Saturday night?

    the really pathetic thing is i was invited to be a wingman over at japonais for the evening. but i bagged it for this. no one can ever accuse me of not being a real indian again.

  25. have you tried the Dave’s Insanity hot sauce that comes in a coffin? I haven’t been brave enough to try but apparently you hallucinate for short while.

    hmmm. gotta try some wings with that. might go well with with absinthe.

  26. Courtesy of A, Caramel Pudding Recipe:

    “Here’s what Amma had told me to do for the caramel custard pudding:

    Needed:

    for the custard:

    1 quart milk whole 1 cup sugar 8 eggs 2 tsp. vanilla extract

    for the caramel:

    1/2 cup water 1 cup sugar

    plus:

    2 bowls (one mixing and one medium-sized glass bowl) 2 pots (one to warm the milk and a heavy sauce pan to heat the caramel) 1 pan (to be placed in the oven – must be large enough to fit the bottom of the glass bowl as well as some water)

    Custard:

    Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract thoroughly in the mixing bowl. Then warm the milk. Add the warm (not hot) milk slowly to the mix (so it doesn’t curdle) and then set the mixture aside.

    Caramel:

    Mix 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 a cup of water in the heavy pot. Place on a slow fire, keep a close watch on it but don’t stir. Once the mixture turns a golden brown color, pour it immediately into a medium sized glass bowl. As you pour, turn the bowl and try to coat the entire bottom as well as the sides of the bowl. Set aside to cool.

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pour some water into the pan. Pour the custard into the caramel-coated bowl.

    Then place the bowl into the pan and, once the oven is heated, place the pan in the oven for around 40 minutes. After that time, take a skewer to pierce the pudding to see if it is done (the skewer should come out clean).
    Set aside to cool and then place in the fridge. Once cooled, set out and serve!

    So, as you know it, took considerably more time to cook then my mom had suggested but that may have been because I put it in before the oven was completely heated. Also, just to let you know, I had “a little bit” the next day and it tasted so much better to me – just as I thought caramel custard should taste – so it seems the cooling process is critical.”

    (We ate the pudding hot that night. Still tasted great.)

  27. More from A. Apparently I was wrong—the chickpea curry was NOT channa masala. It really was Sri Lankan chickpea curry.

    A says,

    “So the other two curries were a bit ad hoc.

    For the garbanzo beans, I think I sauteed some onions with mustard and cumin seed and then added the garbanzo beans, some salt, chili powder, (I would have added curry powder too but had unfortunately run out), garlic, and later some tomatoes and just let it cook. (I’m pretty sure were a couple of other ingredients but I’ve unfortunately forgotten what they were – ginger? a little tumeric? green chili? cumin powder??) . The spinach was even more simple. I just sauteed some onions, added spinach, plus a little salt and red chili flakes (chili powder?) and then, I think, a little tomato? I then let it cool and added the yogurt. I think that was it. Sorry to be so vague, next time I’ll try to pay more attention.”

  28. Most north indian curries, i prefer a little mild on the spices especially with the vegetable stuff. But when it comes to an Andhra meat curry, pile up the hotness. ANother superhot thing I can eat, those things they call Mirakapai Bajji(think of it as a corndog, but the difference being the middle is a chili pepper).

  29. Wasn’t Jonathan Ross giving the Naga a go last Friday on his show? He put on safety goggles and signed the waiver first. Gave some to Steve Carell too. They were both cussing — not at the first bite, but after it hit them a minute later. The hottest dish I’ve ever eaten is the beef rendang (Indonesian) at Tempo Doeloe and Sampurna restaurants in Amsterdam (other places I’ve tried the same dish and it’s never as hot as the staff say it will be).

  30. There is a restaurant in NYC that serves this pepper too. I can’t remember the name for the life of me, but the restaurant was highlighted in “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives” hosted by Guy Fieri on the Food Network (I’m pretty sure). I’ll see if I can look it up.

  31. 25 · my_dog_jagat said

    Here are some others: trifle pudding, bread pudding, P.G. Wodehouse.

    I’d add Irish Stew to the list – actually I think it is the meatless version that reached a certain perfection in India. Also chutney sandwiches and meat ‘cutlets’.

  32. Here are some others: trifle pudding, bread pudding, P.G. Wodehouse.

    For a Mughal riff on bread pudding google ‘double ka meetha’. One of my favorite sweets. Must in a wedding banquet in Hyderabad, AP.

  33. Try “Dave’s Insanity Sauce” for some extreme out-of-this world hotness! A friend once mistook it for Tabasco sauce at our dinner table, and almost had to go the emergency room when he tasted a big drop of it with his food. Needless to say, we now keep the bottle hidden away!

  34. If you have ever been in Andhra Pradesh and possessed the spirit of culinary adventure (or hardihood) you may have encountered “gonkura pacchadi”, a seasoning which I believe is widely used in Andhra cooking. It is probably unwise to step right up to it without a good deal of gradual preparation. I could not really handle it successfully in the past, and would not be able to do so at all now. In British restaurants vindaloo (hot raised to the power of three) offers a comparable (equal it may not be) challenge. I don’t know if going south always leads to hotter food, but it is the case that Spanish and Italian fodd is spicier than the Anglo-Saxon or northern kind.

  35. I judge myself for not being able to take the heat, although i’m trying. You don’t really know your limits until you’ve gone past them.

    Hottest.place.ever was Annapurna in Los Angeles. So good, but even the aunties were crying by the end.

  36. Candadai Tirumalai:

    If you have ever been in Andhra Pradesh and possessed the spirit of culinary adventure (or hardihood) you may have encountered “gonkura pacchadi”, a seasoning which I believe is widely used in Andhra cooking. It is probably unwise to step right up to it without a good deal of gradual preparation. I could not really handle it successfully in the past, and would not be able to do so at all now.

    Someone asking for an gradual introduction to gongura? Here you go.

  37. If you want to read an engaging book on ‘hot’, look for “Peppers” by Amal Naj. It’s far better than just-the-facts-ma’am Wikipedia. You can get it for a penny through Amazon. It sold well in ’93. I also enjoyed the Scientific American program on chiles, especially the part where Alan Alda eats a whole habanero and complains of a tingling on his tongue.

  38. Accidental – that was exactly what I was thinking of.

    I love spiciness, but my tolerance doesn’t match my love, so there’s no way I’m giving that curry a chance.

  39. 25 · my_dog_jagat said

    chachaji said:
    The Caramel Custard may well be the British gastronomic legacy to the subcontinent, spread to all regions – in this sense the ‘dual’ of the ‘Indian curry’ to Britain, and interestingly, carried by the subcontinental diaspora into North America.
    Here are some others: trifle pudding, bread pudding, P.G. Wodehouse. Ok, the last is not food though some probably think it is. Back in college, I was the only one who correctly identified the mystery dessert one evening–a very foul bread pudding, which in America is sometimes passed off as gourmet food.

    me too: I was the only dehati in a gang of Middle aged Brits who identified a Bakewell tart at the race course in kenya! ugh.

  40. We Indians have grabbed onto the chillie in way that we cannot remember a time without it. Before the Portuguese came we depended on pepper alone. But the Portuguese brought not just the chillie but also the potato which has now become a part of most dishes in India. The Bengali has taken the slicing of a potato into an art form…these skills often formed a series of tests used in selecting a bride!!! The history of the evolution of cuisines makes as interesting a reading.

  41. i was at a desi dinner party once when i was a kid. they served a spinach dish which looked like it had small round red berries in it. once i bit into one of those berries it was painfully obvious that they were in fact very potent chillies. i havent seen any chillies like that since.

  42. Gotta watch out for salmonella if you’re eating peppers nowadays. Supposedly it’s spread via.