After hearing a lot about it, I tried the spiciest curry in New York City. Here’s how it went.
The glitchy iPhone app pulled up a view of the bold, block-lettered words “Brick Lane” on 6th street. With open bifold doors, the empty establishment resonated Indian food anxiety. Dark mahogany tables decorated the interior, warmed by small candles. I was seated along with my aunt right by the gaping entrance and was poured ice water by a curly-haired teenager with an accent that I couldn’t quite place. The menu boxed the synopsis for Phaal curry and sent an inevitable shiver like a glacier down spines. Above the description were nine other curry choices ranging from sweet to spicy.
As the order was placed, the waiter’s expression faded quickly from friendliness to polite concern. He laughed nervously as he began his anecdote about his first — and last — time trying Phaal, explaining the seemingly harmless toothpick dip and the five second wait until fire erupted from his stomach. My aunt shot me a “it’s not too late to back out” look. Instead, she calmly said, “We’ll need some milk,” to which he quickly responded, “You’ll need mango lassi, it’s better.”
After our entrees were placed in front of us, the Phaal curry was set down like a burnt red centerpiece. The first five seconds of placing the dipped naan in our mouths was as terrifying as slowly rolling up the first climb of a roller coaster. Then, there it was, the excruciating pain of what could only be described as fire. We spent the next minutes desperately trying to get the cool, thick pale orange lassi drink faster and faster through our straws.
Our waiter returned and looked slightly worried. He spoke about the many red-faced kids as they triple-dog-dared their friends and the grown-ups who “eat spicy food ALL the time”. He explained that Phaal was never meant for recreational consumption and that this entire concept was derived from a competition. The founding members began trying to formulate the spiciest curry in London and after moving to New York to start their business, they kept adding peppers and attempting to heighten its taste. Harvesting 12 different peppers, Phaal also consists of the infamous Carolina Reaper that ranks at 2,150,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale. He went on to explain that though there are many on the P’Hall of Fame, their victory is chained to a painful digestive disadvantage. There have been many horror stories according just to his shift’s experiences. Just last week, there was a man one spoonful away from finishing before returning all he had stomached back onto the table and running to the bathroom.
We asked for the remaining of the Phaal left to take to give our other family members a try, which he said was a common move. Brick Lane Curry House had an exceptionally sweet and caring staff for housing the scariest food in the city. Before walking out, cleansed and runny-nosed, I had to ask and finally found out: Brazilian accent.
Email Avani Jurakhan at [email protected]