Brick Lane’s menu is the best introduction to phaal (above):
"An excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor, for our customers who do this on a dare, we will require you to state a verbal disclaimer not holding us liable for any physical or emotional damage after eating this curry. If you do manage to finish your serving of curry, a bottle of beer is on us."
Big talk, but documented attempts back it up. In the other corner is “Pork on Fire,” (Moo-Na-Rok, $13) a dish from the West Village restaurant, Rhong Tiam. Last summer, a New York Times article suggested it could be a “contender for spiciest dish in the city,” a suggestion that didn’t go untested.
So, which dish is hotter?
The internet is awash with phaal strategy, but there are two things to keep in mind. One: Water doesn’t help. You need carbs to neutralize the capcaisin in hot pepper. Two: The faster the better.
Phaal is an orange-brown curry made with: vinegar-soaked red chilies, green chilies, black pepper, white chili powder and habanero julienne. Armed with naan, rice, and yogurt, the phaal chicken challenge ($17) commenced. “This isn’t so bad,” you think, three bites in. Then…
Minute One: Feel the burn!
Minute Two: You start to tear. Not cry, but tear.
Minute Four: First nose blow. Intense burn. Pain in throat.
Minute Six: Intense lip tingle. Naan helps, lassi too.
10 Minutes: Start questioning your approach. Was finishing all the meat first such a good idea?
12 Minutes: Eating with a clenched fist.
14 Minutes: Queasy stomach. Rice helps mop up sauce.
16 Minutes: First actual tear.
23 Minutes: The last bite, with the chili garnish. Painful.
The Phaal Challenge also includes a whole chile.
After finishing the free Kingfisher, a visit to Rhong Tiam was in order to pursue Pork on Fire: thinly-sliced pork with basil, glanga, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, and fresh chili garlic, garnished with fried basil and peanuts. It was sweet, garlicky, and spicy, but enjoyable. However, a burn wouldn’t accumulate.
Rhong Tiam's Pork on Fire: Not that hot, or broken tastebuds?
Knowing restaurants lower spice-levels despite customer requests, we asked the chef twice to make Pork on Fire extra hot, the second time for it “hot enough to hurt.” The third time it appeared it was tongue-on-fire-sweat-under-your-eyes-hot, but not phaal hot.
The conclusion? Flavor-wise, Pork on Fire wins, but it doesn’t nearly match the heat of the Phaal Challenge at Brick Lane Curry House.