“OH GOD IT BURNS GET IT OUT OF ME OH GOD JUST TAKE A KNIFE AND CUT IT OUT OF ME!”
~AffotD Food Critic John Goodman
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find that many people outside of this country assume that Americans don’t like spicy food. Ignoring the fact that American cuisine has been embracing spiciness with increasingly fanatical zeal for the past seven years or so, or that we are responsible for a little thing called Cajun food, cultures that embrace “flavorful” cuisine operate under the assumption that Americans were raised eating bland, lifeless food. Of course, anyone who has ever stared in wide-eyed horror at the slew of fried foods state fairs have to offer knows that that America doesn’t have any problem doing insane, irresponsible things to our meals, and that line doesn’t stop at spiciness.
No, if America has one culinary trait that trumps all others, its our love of taking normal food and making it recklessly unhealthy or uncomfortable to eat. There’s a reason why we had a show called Man vs. Food that literally consisted of, “Let’s take Adam Richman and make him eat impossible to eat things that restaurants actually sell to customers every day.” So, yes, of course we love spicy food. And not only does America like spicy food, we like stupidly spicy food. Literally dozens of Americans will purchase chili peppers 10,000 times spicier than Tabasco sauce, and will film themselves eating them, because this is America goddamn it and besides, stomach lining grows back. Right?
Naturally, AFFotD needed to put this myth of bland food to rest by showing you the spiciest dishes being served in America. Some of you are going to immediately hunt down these dishes to eat them, and you will be so angry that you did that, and our staff will laugh so hard at your misery. That’s only part of the reason why we’re doing this. The rest is, you know, uh, spicy food is delicious and America does spicy right.
The Five Spiciest Meals in America
Determining the exact “spiciness” of a food generally comes with a fairly large amount of subjectivity. Many people simply utilize the crude but moderately effective rating range of “oh wow, yeah, that has a little bit of a kick at the end” to “OH MOTHER OF GOD WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF PLEASE JUST KILL ME TO RELEASE ME FROM THIS PERSONAL HELL.” That’s when science stepped in and came up with the Scoville scale which, though not exactly precise, still gives you an idea of the spiciness of a pepper or food.
The feeling of searing pain in your mouth, lips, and oh God genitals why did you have you scratch your genitals after touching the seeds of those habañero peppers comes from a chemical compound called “Capsaicin” which stimulates receptors in your nerve endings to make them feel pain. Biting into a hot pepper makes your body scream, “UM DUDE I THINK SOMEONE IS STABBING US WITH A MOLTEN BLADE IN THE MOUTH,” and the Scoville scale is our way of determining if our invisible foe is wielding a pocket knife or a katana. By taking an alcohol extract of a dried pepper, and adding a solution of sugar water, the Scoville scale is calculated by determining how much sugar water must be added before a number of tasters (usually five) can no longer detect any spiciness. Which means that for a jalapeño pepper to have 5,000 Scoville heat units, it would take 5,000 drops of sugar water to neutralize a single drop of jalapeño oil.
And that’s just child’s play.
Since many people talk about spicy food in inaccurate “oh man, these wings, ho boy” terms, we limited our list of spiciest food dishes in America to ones where we could get a concrete Scoville rating, so you can get a proper idea of exactly how much of the skin from the inside of your mouth you’re going to have slough off after every bite.
We know, readers. It’s weird to see us trying to use science too. We’ll just dive straight into the spicy.
#5: Bushido Spicy Tuna Roll Challenge- 250,000+ Scoville Heat Units
Most restaurants that serve dangerously spicy dishes put everything out there at once for you. “Oh, you think you like spicy food? Here’s a bowl of soup that was made out of peppers that can only be grown in pools of Satan’s semen in the middle of Death Valley. If you eat every last bite of it, you won’t have to pay, but seriously baahaha go fuck yourself.” Bushido Japanese Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina decided to go a different route which is why, though this dish is by far the least spicy of any other listed in this article, it definitely belongs with the big boys. “As seen on Man vs. Food” (honestly, you’re going to be hearing that a lot. Pretty much anytime you find a dish listed as ‘the spiciest in America’ a character from South Park pops up and shouts “RICHMAN DID IT RICHMAN DID IT”) Bushido offers the Bushido Seppuku Challenge. In case you didn’t get the not-so-subtle reference, seppuku is the form of Japanese ritualistic suicide where a samurai disembowels himself. It’s a metaphor people!
The challenge consists of ten different spicy tuna rolls, each one getting increasingly spicier, which you have to eat in a row without drinking anything that would lessen the effect of the capsaicin. The first five rolls work their way up to a level of spiciness that’s about on par with eating a raw jalapeño pepper, at which point you’re told you have to sign a waiver if you want to continue. The waiver includes a clause that, if you throw up during one of the “levels” you have to eat that spicy roll again before you can move on. The eighth (or, third most spicy) roll has a Scoville rating of about 250,000, which means that by number 10 (filled with Ghost Pepper, ie, the chili nature devised to punish us for Global Warming) you’ll probably be over 500,000 units.
If you’re able to finish all ten rolls, you get a samurai headband because racism(?) and a $25 gift certificate that you will never use because your stomach has now been converted to a bubbling maw of lava and it will slowly eat away at you until you wake up in the morning as nothing but ash. But hey, that was some tasty tuna, right?
#4: East Coast Grill’s Pasta Plate From Hell: Somewhere Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Scoville Heat Units
We don’t have any concrete numbers on actual spice levels of the East Coast Grill’s Pasta Plate From Hell, which they only sell in December during their “Hell Week.” What we do know is that it’s made with enough ghost peppers that it has at least 500,000, and may possibly exceed the spiciness of some of the other dishes on this list. We also know that it is so spicy it once sent someone to the hospital. We’d be lying if we said that’s the last time you’ll see that happen in this article.
There’s no better way to describe this dish than East Coast Grill did in the waiver they make you sign, which contains such vague legalese as “Rectum? Damn near killed ‘em,” “imagine an angry Goliath Birdeater crawling down your throat, the irritating sting of its barbed urticating hairs penetrating the membranes of your tongue and esophagus. The large hairy spider reaches your stomach and sinks its fangs into your intestines… Hours later it tears out the other end, alive,” and, most succinctly, “You Will Get Hurt.”
Heh. Damn that rectum line was pretty good actually. We’re gonna feed this dish to our writers as punishment for them not coming up with it first.
#3: Chunky’s Burgers & More’s Four Horsemen Burger- 850,000-1,000,000 Scoville Heat Units
As seen on “Man vs. Food” (RICHMAN DID IT RICHMAN DID IT), Chunky’s Burgers & More in San Antonio, Texas decided to make a delicious looking burger that tastes like someone dared you to put a burning coal in your mouth and you were stupid enough to say yes. The burger is called the Four Horseman partly because it uses four different types of peppers (jalapeño, serrano, habañero sauce, and ghost chili) and also because everyone that has finished one has gone immediately insane for they have seen the arrival of the apocalypse and they have discovered that none will have been deemed worthy to be spared.
If you’re able to finish the burger challenge, it’s free. However to do so, you have to finish it in 25 minutes without spitting, “double tasting”, going to the bathroom, or eating or drinking anything that could cool down the fire in your mouth. Additionally, once you finish it, you have to wait five minutes before you take any spicy food remedy. Yes, there’s a puke bucket provided, and yes they charge you twenty bucks if you miss said bucket. Telling you that this clocks in between 850K and a million Scoville units doesn’t do it justice. It’s like telling you “Pluto is 4.7 billion miles from Earth.” You see the number, but don’t comprehend how impossibly big that number actually is. Let’s put it this way—you notice how the hand in this picture has a glove on it? They make you wear that as you handle the burger. So you don’t get pepper burns.
Burns. From pepper.
Either way, out of the thousands who have tried this challenge, only 47 in all of America have completed it as of the writing of this article. Go ahead and click the Chunky’s link, there’s pictures of all of them. Every single one has tears in their eyes, shirts drenched with sweat, and lips that are so red and raw that they look like Heath Ledger’s joker. So, anyway, guess it’s time for us to book a ticket to San Antonio.
#2: Brick Lane Curry House’s Phaal Curry- 1,000,000 Scoville Heat Units
Most dishes that are spicy enough to melt through iron like the saliva from the Queen Mother in Aliens require a waiver to be signed. Sometimes, you’ll see a waiver that’s just a gimmicky document for a not-crazy-spicy dish that lets the people who finish say, “lulz, you guys, I just ate like, the spiciest thing, and I’m a real man, and all the women should now form a line for the sex starting at this certificate I won with my dollars.” However, you don’t really doubt the sincerity behind the “seriously, you will get very hurt and it’ll be your own damn fault” sentiment when you’re signing a waiver to eat a dish that has to be cooked while its chefs wear gas masks.
The Brick Lane Curry House, located at various locations in New York City (and Jersey, which for these purposes, and at the request of Northeastern Jersey residents, shall henceforth be referred to as New York City), prides itself for its Phaal Curry, which boasts a hefty 1,000,000 Scoville heat units, and has been known to cause hallucinations. It’s appeared on Man vs. Food (RICHMAN DID IT RICHMAN DID IT) and it has sent two people to the hospital. Phaal is a type of purposely evilly spicy curry that originated in Indian restaurants in the United Kingdom, while hilariously sharing the same name as a gravy-less, char-grilled, non-tongue scorching street foot in Bangalore. We can only assume they named it as such to punish every Bangladeshi immigrant who ever craves a taste of home. Brick Lane Curry House is likely the best known example of this curry, as it is spicy enough to make you confess to crimes you never committed (fun fact- we think we arrested the Son of Sam. We got the wrong guy. Phaal curry is why).
If you eat 24 ounces of this culinary manifestation of every time you got really mad at someone and thought, just for a second, “What if I did this horrible thing to oh God, no why would I even think that what is wrong with me” in one sitting, you get a certificate, a beer (because you’ll goddamn well need one), and the directions to the nearest hospital that has an available stomach pump. And then, the next time you find yourself at a singles bar, you can feel confidence and bravery, knowing you’ve tackled the near impossible, and without a twinge of embarrassment will stroll up to that extremely attractive person of your desirous sex and say, “HUHHRRRHHHHH!” Because, lol, you don’t have vocal chords anymore, you burned them off, you big curry eating silly.
#1: The Emperor’s Egg Roll From China Blossom- 7,100,000 Scoville Heat Units
Holy shit, guys. We don’t know if we want to play this game anymore. This is like that part of the movie where we’re the fun-loving teenage couple that just got picked up while hitchhiking because #OMG #YOLO #ForeverYoung and after having a really friendly conversation with the driver he just casually mentions how he’s killed people before, saying something like, “I remember the last time I picked up hitchhikers. Looked just like you two. Young. Carefree. Thinking, sure, 7.1 million Scoville units, that’s nothing. My stomach can take it. I dumped their bodies in a ditch.”
We’re trying to say that the Emperor’s Egg Roll from China Blossom in North Andover, Massachusetts has killed people, and while it didn’t do it on purpose, it didn’t really feel bad about it either. Clocking in at an impossible-sounding 7.1 million Scoville units (for those of you calling bullshit, we decided to go with the lesser of estimates we ran into. This video lists it as between 7 and 10 million, and one site lists it at 16 million) this egg roll is jam packed with the Naga Viper pepper (ie, the pepper that took the Guinness World Records “Hottest Chilli” title away from the Ghost Pepper, ie, the pepper that takes the combined anguish of a full year’s worth of unsolved Juarez murders and transforms it to chilli form), and then tops that with an additional secret spicy sauce. Oh, and the whole thing is then sprinkled with 23-karat gold flakes, because ha ha fuck you poor people if you want this money you have to put hell in your mouth first.
This little doozy is on the secret menu, probably because, legal waiver notwithstanding, they’d be arrested for negligent homicide if someone accidentally ordered it off their menu not knowing what they’ve done, and as far as we can tell, the best anyone has ever done was to eat just half of the damn thing, with most people giving up after the first or second bite. We can’t imagine anyone being teased for being unable to finish this gastronomic monstrosity, we assume that as soon as someone takes the second bite and collapses on the table, people just start cheering the same way they did at the end of Rocky because, sure, he lost, but he lost to the champ and he made it a fight. If we ever attempt to eat this behemoth we’re going to make sure we start dating a shy, coy, borderline Asperger-y pet store worker named Adrian just so we can shout her name out when we finally crumble to the mat.
“ADRIAN! ADRIAN! BRING ME A GODDAMN GLASS OF MILK!”
Or, you know, we could just stick to putting Sriracha on everything and remain completely content with that. To each their own.