Curry & Chili: Surviving Berlin’s Spiciest Currywurst

Curry & Chili: Surviving Berlin’s Spiciest Currywurst

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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 simpler terms, it’s how you measure the spiciness of something. The higher the SHU, the spicier it is. For instance, a bell pepper ranges from 0 to 100 SHU, Sriracha is 2200 SHU, Tabasco is 3750 SHU, while a habanero pepper can hit 200,000 SHU, and a ghost pepper reaches a staggering 1 million SHU. No joke.

In Berlin, there’s a place called Curry & Chili, famous for one thing – serving the spiciest currywurst you can stomach.

What’s A Currywurst?

A popular German fast food dish, currywurst is a steamed and fried pork sausage sliced and served with curry ketchup and topped with curry powder. Germans consume about 800 million currywursts annually, with 70 million in Berlin alone.

While many places in Berlin serve currywurst, only Curry & Chili offers it with the spiciest sauce legally allowed worldwide. This devilish red shack at the corner of Osloer Strasse and Prinzenallee in Mitte is infamous for two reasons:

1. Their curry ketchup hot sauce reaches up to 7.7 million SHU (the legal limit for non-competitive consumption).

2. The shack sits dangerously close to a train track.

Curry and Chili stand in Berlin

The Curry & Chili Club

On my way back home from Dubai, I decided to stop by Berlin. My friend Max came up from Stuttgart and wanted to introduce me to some classic German cuisine. We stumbled upon this shack and could not resist its claim of serving the spiciest currywurst.

The menu features 10 hot sauce stages, starting at 11,000 SHU (Stufe 1), climbing to 2,000,000 SHU (Stufe 9), before ultimately climaxing at a dangerous 7,777,777 SHU (the “Meister”). Eat this one at your own risk.

The man at the counter recommended we start at Stufe 5 (250,000 SHU).

“How hot is 250,000?” I ask, unaware of the real world Scoville scale spiciness levels. “Tabasco is about 5,000,” he dryly responds.

Setting my ego aside, we agreed to start at the lowly level of Stufe 5 and 6 and preemptively ordered two bottles of chocolate milk.

Eating the spiciest currywurst at curry and chili in Berlin

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 ten stages of sauces 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.

If you’re looking for more travel inspirations, check out some of the 450+ experiences on my bucket list. Maybe you’ll find your next adventure on there.

Updated on May 28, 2024


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