Bucket List: Surviving Berlin’s Spiciest Currywurst
Bucket List: Surviving Berlin’s Spiciest Currywurst
According to Wikipedia:
Scoville Scale: a measurement of the pungency (spicy/heat of pepper) of chili peppers, or other spicy foods, as reported in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a function of capsaicin concentration.
In other words, this is the way you measure how spicy something is. The higher on the scale, the spicier. To give you an idea of the extremes, a bell pepper has a SHU of between 0 and 100. Sriracha has a SHU of 2200. Tabasco has a SHU of 3750. But that’s nothing. A habanero pepper has a SHU of 200,000 and a ghost pepper takes it up to the 1 million mark. Shit is no joke.
So there is a place in Berlin called Curry & Chili. They basically serve one thing: currywurst.
What’s A Currywurst?
A fast food dish of German origins that consists of a steamed, and then fried pork sausage that is sliced up and served with curry ketchup and topped with curry powder. It’s a popular fast food dish for Germans and they consume about 800 million of these things a year, 70 million alone in Berlin.
As you can imagine, there many places you can get currywurst around Berlin, but only one place that serves it with the spiciest sauce you can legally serve in the world. It’s called Curry & Chilli and it’s a little shack at the corner of Osloer Strasse and Prinzenallee in Mitte.
This demonic little shack is a dangerous place for two reasons:
First, they serve a curry ketchup hot sauce that goes up to 7.7 million SHU (the legal limit to be serving to normal people, who aren’t signing some kind of death waiver in a chili eating competition).
Second, they are located right next to a god damned train track. I’ll get to this in a bit.
The Curry & Chili Club
On my way back home from Dubai, I decided to stop by Berlin to check out the city. My friend Max came up from Stuttgart to hang out and wanted to introduce me to some classic German cuisine. This shack popped up casually on our walk and we were drawn to the advertisement that they served up the spiciest currywurst in Berlin.
At the little shack, Max asked where we should start, pointing up to the sign with the 10 different hot sauces labeled “stufes” or stages. Stufe 1 starts at 11,000 SHU and gradually gets up to Stufe 9, a mouth blistering 2,000,000 SHU. At the apex is “Meister” topping out at a lucky 7,777,777 SHU. Try this one at your own risk.
The man at the counter eyes me up for half a second (probably noting our eagerness and that I’m Asian) and suggests we start at Stufe #5 (250,000 SHU). My ego was a little offended. Only #5?
“How hot is 250,000?” I ask, not aware of what the Scoville scale translates to in real life spiciness. “Tabasco is about 5,000,” he responds with a bit of a smirk.
Setting that ego aside, we ordered #5 and #6 to start along with 2 bottles of chocolate milk.
The photo above is the last time you’ll see me smiling for the long time.
Scream and Pepper King
Every sauce has a name and Scream and Pepper King are the names of #5 (250,000 SHU) and #6 (400,000 SHU) respectively. I dived in head first and put a full piece of the sausage in my mouth and began chewing. Nothing. I kept chewing.
But just a split second before I swallow, the sauce awoke like a startled porcupine and just started thrashing in my mouth. I remembered I was being filmed and stayed somewhat composed, glad I had sunglasses on to hide the first tear that came out. My face immediately flushed a light crimson and I felt the heat signature in my face rise at a disproportionate rate to my body.
Still it wasn’t that bad and I took a tiny sip of the chocolate milk, almost in a triumphant and mocking gesture to the sauce. Max went next and had a similar enough reaction, also with his sunglasses on as well.
The #6 Pepper King was next. The porcupine was gone from my mouth, but it had created some fresh wounds. Sauce #6 went straight for those exposed areas and I quickly found myself chewing in a way as to keep my tongue as far from the sausage and my teeth. Imagine those wind-up chattering teeth toy and that was me. The King has caused me to start sweating. We each finished our bite, but we did not want to suffer needlessly and decided to abandon the rest of the sausage to move on to #7 and #8.
C&C Silver and Mad-Dog mit Jolokia Pulver
So #7 and #8 didn’t have such marketable names, but at 777,777 SHU and 1,000,000 SHU, we bought another two bottles of chocolate milk just in case. At 1,000,000 SHU, the owner of the Curry & Chili explained, “it’s like pepper-spray”.
I took a much more cautious approach to #7 and sampled a drop of the sauce from my fork before going for a full bite. It was the 2nd smartest thing I did that day. We still had #8 to go so I couldn’t bail out now. I put the bite of currywurst in my mouth and tried to chew it as fast as I could. Every 2 or 3 chews, I spat out a new swell of saliva and chased it with a mouthful of chocolate milk. My ears were heating up so fast it felt like I was standing next to a furnace.
Max was filming me and I’m not even sure what I was seeing anymore beyond the few millimeters separating my eyes and my sunglasses. After about a minute, the burning in my mouth began to subside. I had one bottle of chocolate milk left.
#8. I don’t know what Jolokia Pulver means, but I’m guessing asshole pepper. When we had recomposed ourselves, I took a toothpick and dipped it into the sauce. Just the tip (that’s what she said). I licked it and waited. Strange. “Nothing, Max.” Maybe that was not enough. I remember the next sequence of events very clearly.
“I’m not tasting an——” Just as the sauce hits my tongue, I cough.
A Brush With Death
Cough. Cough. That first cough seemed to have knocked a tiny bit of the toothpick’s sauce to the back of my throat. Choke.
I felt an invisible force choke at my windpipe and reached for the milk. I started chugging and then spitting. Then chugging. Spitting. I was out of milk and reached for Max’s who nervously laughing. Saliva was refilling at the same rate as I was spitting out and my face breaks out in a full sweat. I wanted to reach for my eyes, but stopped myself. That was the smartest thing I did that day.
At this point, I was standing up and disregarding all protocol for how to act in public. I walked away from the table and kept spitting. I scraped at my tongue with my teeth and continued to spit. I was completely unaware of my surroundings just as a train rushed by – a mere feet or so from my face.
“Why the fuck is this place right next to a train track?” is what I would have said if my mouth was working properly at this point.
That brush with death seemed to bring some composure back to me and I sat back down at the table to blow my nose. Max and I look and each other and decide we’re going to save #9 and #10 for another time. Like never.
If you somehow manage to eat all 10 sausages in a year, you join the exclusive Curry & Chili Club, or as I now know from experience, a group of people who are both idiots and absolutely warriors for being to pull off such a feat.
Updated on September 13, 2020