The whole heat fetish began many years ago in England. Most Americans, when asked about their knowledge of British foods, automatically think of fish and chips, bangers and mash and maybe shepherds pie. Fools. The national dish in England is Curry. Not the wimpish Chinese variety, but Indian, the real deal.
Growing up in England involves certain rituals, some of which cannot be avoided if one is to pass through one's teenage years with some hope of attaining "true adult status". One such ritual is the age-old ceremony of "doing a runner". One simply cannot claim to have a broad range of life experiences without being able to boast of at least one (multiple preferred) occurrence of this particular event. Doing a runner (referred to forthwith as DoAR) involves hitting the town (usually on a Friday night), consuming vast amounts of alcohol, attending an Indian restaurant (where only the hottest Vindaloo or Phal dish is served) and leaving somewhat unceremoniously without having paid the bill (usually through a bathroom window).
Since it is necessary for every youth to have it least one DoAR experience, it stands to reason that everyone will have sampled at least one Indian Curry. Quite often, multiple trips to the restaurant are necessary before one plucks up sufficient courage to perform the DoAR. And so the addiction begins, at a young age. One wise old man told me that the DoAR ritual was actually introduced by the owner of an Indian restaurant (Curry House), as a way of stimulating business. Something like "buy four curries and get your fifth one free", since statistically most people have at least 4 failed attempts at a DoAR before finally having the courage to complete the mission, on the fifth attempt.
Indian food is in our genes (literally, in some instances). It's more a part of our culture than fish and chips or even marmite, though drinking tea at 4pm each day comes close.
So that's the explanation behind the latest mission. It isn't that I expect to find a competitor for a Phal or even a Vindaloo, but that I need to experience the physical and emotional pain and suffering that comes with eating food that is so unbearably hot that one prepares ahead of time by placing a toilet roll in the refrigerator the night before the culinary event.
And so. With the stage set, I will now start to report on my experiences in the quest for the Golden Chili Pepper.
Feel free to post your experiences, good or bad, and inform the author of any establishments you feel may warrant inclusion in the Golden Chili Pepper Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, here's a useful tip for getting a good chili fix