Curry & Chili Challenge: Surviving Berlin’s Spiciest Currywurst
Curry & Chili Challenge: 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. This demonic little shack is a dangerous place for two reasons.
First, they serve a 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.
The Curry & Chili Club
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.
On my way back home from Dubai, I decided to stop by Berlin to check out the city. My friend Max came up from Stuggart to hang out and wanted to show me some classic German cuisine.
Shortly after be introduced to Berlin’s currywurst, we stumbled across a little stand called Curry & Chili that innocently advertised various spicy currywursts. Upon a closer inspection of their simple enough menu, I learned that you can order your sausage with a sauce that varies in degree of spiciness on a scale of 1 to 10. Simple as that. If you manage to eat all 10 sauces in a year, you join the exclusive Curry & Chili Club. I hate food challenges, because I can’t walk away from a challenge, and I love food.
Max asks where we should start (pointing out that I am Asian and like spicy food). The man at the counter eyes me up for half a second, and tells us to start at #5 (250,000 SHU). I am partly offended and so I partly give him a stink eye.
“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.
Since I was with Max, 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 slice of the sausage in my mouth and started chewing. Nothing. I kept chewing and just a split second before I swallow, the sauce came to life like a startled porcupine and just ripped at my entire mouth. I remembered I was being filmed and composed myself, very 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, at least with his sunglasses on as well.
The 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 as away as possible 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 finish 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 as 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 take a much more cautious approach to #7 and take a tiny taste of the sauce from the fork before going for a full bite. It was the 2nd smartest thing I would do 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 would have to spit out a new batch of saliva gushing from my mouth and chase it with a mouthful of chocolate milk. My ears are heating up so fast it felt like I was standing way too close to a furnace.
Max is 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 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.
Cough. Cough. That first cough seemed to have knocked a tiny bit of the toothpick’s sauce to the back of my throat. Cough.
I feel an invisible force choke at my windpipe and reach for the milk. I start chugging and then spitting. Then chugging. Spitting. I’m out of milk and reach for Max’s. Saliva is refilling at the same rate as I’m spitting it out and my face breaks out in a full sweat. I want to reach for my eyes, but stop myself. That would be the smartest thing I did that day. I’m up now and disregarding any protocol for how to act in public, I walk away from the table and keep spitting. I scrap at my tongue with my teeth and continue to spit. I’m completely unaware of my surrounding just as a train rushes 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 sit back down at the table and 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.
Like I said, 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 brilliant for being to pull off such a feat.