CNN staffers took on a double-dog dare to finish a dish made with bhut jolokia - a pepper so hot it's been weaponized. Sara Sidner, a Delhi-based correspondent, share her first-hand account.
I don't do eating stunts; it's just not my thing. I don't like watching people shovel huge amounts of doughnuts or pies or whatever else down their gullets to win a prize. It's part guilt - knowing there are hungry people in the world - and part disgust, because it makes me gag to watch.
Turns out I am a hypocrite. While in New York City, I did as some of the locals do and took a food challenge. It's called the "Phaal Curry Challenge," an idea thought up by Brick Lane Curry House in New York's East Village. Basically, the owners dare patrons to eat an entire bowl of their spiciest curry - Phaal Curry. It has a total of ten different types of chili and peppers in it.
If you finish it you get a free beer and a certificate naming you a "Phaal Curry Monster." To be honest, a large part of the reason I did the stunt is because I was doing a story on the place and their challenge, but that is no excuse for breaking a not-so-strict rule I have made for myself.
With the camera in my face, I watched it being cooked. The Executive Chef Karthik Kumar was wearing a gas mask; the rest of the staff was hidden behind anything they could find when he fired up the pan and threw in the ingredients. I did it bare-nosed. It hurt just standing there watching. Then, I sat down in the small but comfortable dining area and waited a bit for it to arrive.
The moment of truth came halfway through the dish. I am based in Delhi, India, and nearly every day I have some kind of curry dish, so I felt I was well primed for this experience. Bad assumption.
Halfway through, I convulsed: my mouth felt raw, my lips singed, my tongue unable to function properly. I know an old trick to cool the heat, so I shoveled in raita, an Indian condiment made with yogurt. It helped - but not much. Maybe it is because I am a former athlete who still loves to compete, maybe it was because I needed to be able to describe the experience to readers, or maybe a combination of both - whatever it was, I refused to stop until I finished the 16-ounce dish. Normally you'd share a dish of curry with at least one other friend.
In about 25 minutes, I finished the wickedly hot dish made with the so-called "Ghost Chili," believed to be the hottest chili in the world. At first I was proud, I mean I did get a certificate, but later I just felt like an idiot. If you've ever had spicy food you know what happens after you eat a lot of it. I paid for it for two days - never mind breaking my holier-than-thou rule of thumb.