Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Feeling The Heat

When it comes to Guinness World Records there's nothing truer than the old adage that some things are easier said than done. And records in the category of excessive human consumption are no exception. Perhaps the most famous of all meals was the Cessna 150 light aircraft consumed by the flamboyant Monsieur Mangetout, a.k.a. Michel Lotito of Grenoble. Mind you, he started munching the airplane in June 1978 and didn't put his knife and fork down until 1980.

The Guinness book of World Records

Now I can reveal that another of the world's great chomping records is about to be well and truly smashed. This particular achievement involves the downing of the humble fruit capsicum chinense, better known to you and me as the red hot chilli pepper. Now I'm certainly no stranger to the chilli, and I'd go so far as to boast that I can take a considerable amount of heat before I reach for the lassi.

A Scotch bonnet or two finely chopped and cooked in my dinner is no threat to me. But in the true spirit of world record attempts, the particular variety of genus capsicum that is about to be munched into the record books is no ordinary beast.

When I heard that the record is about to be broken by someone consuming the hottest chilli pepper known to man (or in this case woman), I couldn't help but smile.

Bhut Jolokia, the "ghost chilli"The chilli in question is Bhut (or Naga) Jolokia, a.k.a. "ghost chilli", and although I can't claim personal experience I would imagine that eating just one of these bad boys would cause most of us a very big problem. But let's take a closer look, so we can really put things into perspective. The pungency of different chilli varieties is measured in Scoville Heat Units, with the bell pepper measuring zero on the SHU scale. Jalapeños come in at 2,500-10,000 SHU, with habaneros and Scotch bonnets scoring a staggering 100,000-350,000 SHU. But Bhut Jolokia is in a league of its own. This chilli tops the chart at... wait for it... a whopping one million, one thousand, three hundred and four units! Now that's something to get hot and bothered about.

Anandita Dutta Tamuly - chilli muncher extraordinaireThe woman who will be attempting this record-breaking feat is Anandita Dutta Tamuly, a 26-year-old mother from Assam in the Northeast of India. Mrs Tamuly has apparently been a fan of the infamous "ghost chilli" since childhood, when her mother smeared her tongue with chilli paste to cure an infection. She has already appeared on Indian television, "chowing down" on an incredible sixty fiery ghost chillies in one minute, and plans to travel to London soon to swipe the chilli eating record. And that's nothing to scoff at - the current holder, South African Anita Crawford, gobbled an impressive eight jalapeños in one minute to take the title. But when you consider that Bhut Jolokia is well over one hundred times hotter than jalapeño and the fact that Mrs Tamuly can joyously put away sixty of the little devils without even breaking a sweat, I'd recommend £5 at Ladbrokes before the news gets out.


Scott at Real Epicurean said...

I have trouble believing it.

I was told that if you purée a habanero in a food processor, the fumes can burn your skin...

Based on that, what would one of these do to you? I'd be scared to go to the toilet afterwards!

Izzie said...

I know this is totally unrelated to the topic but my mum and me were shopping the other day and we went to this terrific; i think it was persian restaurant, just off edgware road, before we caught the bus to go home. I loved it the bread was amazing; gigantic. I just wondered if you know what it is called? As you are something of an expert because I want to rave about it to all of my friends.

Trig said...

Hi Izzie - you're in luck because I know this area quite well. Edgware Road is famous for Middle Eastern cuisine. The part of Edgware Road near Marble Arch is famous for its Lebanese food, but further up towards Edgware Rd tube station there are several Persian restaurants. I think you'll find that the modern ones call themselves Iranian, but those cooking more traditional fare tend to call themselves Persian.

The guides will recommend several good air-conditioned places of which Kandoo is probably the most famous. Colbeh is smaller and supposed to be very good but I've not been there.

My favourite is a tiny cramped cafe where you sit next to the grill or in a room upstairs where there's no ventilation. And the brown wallpaper is ghastly. You couldn't take your grandparents there. But the saffron rice is probably the best in Britain and all the food is fantastic. An Iranian friend of my dad who lives in Spain took me there once and I've never forgotten the place. It's called Patogh.

Hope this helps. Enjoy your meal.

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