This is the story of an ill-advised venture masked under the delusion of an impressive adventure, a thrilling idea culminating to a tormenting reality. This is the story of a mediocre-food-aficionado-turned-Phaal-Curry-Monster.

A capsaicin addict and a senseless experience-seeking enthusiast walk into a British-Indian restaurant...

The Anticipation

We made the reservation to take the Phaal Curry Challenge about a month in advance–a challenge to finish the world's hottest curry made with the hottest chilies in under 30 minutes. I’m not sure what was worse: the month leading up to the challenge or the hours immediately after the challenge.

Nevertheless, an inkling of excitement existed prior to the reservation. After all, a spicy food challenge is a scientifically supported excuse to engulf a luscious patty melt from Umami Burger in FiDi's Brookfield Place.

Despite the delicious food adventures we anticipated, all I could believe on Friday, December 9th, 2016, was that the world was against me. The wrenching of my gut redirected all of my energy into feeling sorry for myself for what was to come soon at 3:30PM, although I had no energy to even admit it to myself at the time.

The Foreplay

We arrived around 3:35PM, at the end of their lunch buffet, and decided to wait until the manager came by so we could ask a few questions and film the process of cooking the phaal.

3:35PM turned 4:35PM, and I was secretly hoping the manager would flake so that we too would have an excuse to flake. The staff were extremely welcoming, it almost felt like pity, the kind that’s usually accompanied by, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

At least we got some complementary bites out of the anxiety. This lassuni gobi helped qualm the nerves slightly. 

Wendy You

When the manager and owner, Sati, came, we were ready to witness the cooking of the fiery pot of phaal. We gathered into the kitchen, and we were handed cloths for seemingly no apparent reason. That reason, apparently, was so we could cover our respiratory openings for safety and health precautions. And, mind you, this is before it’s ready to be served. 

The fumes are an unsuspecting killer; they come with no warning, no smell–just the chokehold as they invade your nasal and oral cavities. 

Our capsaicin addict, who once endured an entire Carolina Reaper pepper, had to stop filming to leave the kitchen and cough. This otherwise incredible behind-the-scenes opportunity in the kitchen did not help to ease the wrenching. It was confirmed: phaal was hell disguised as food.

Wendy You

The Challenge

The cooked curry was allowed to cool before the challenge started, and at that point, with all the waiting, I could do nothing but just numb myself. I suppressed all emotion as the staff filled our table with the metal dishes, and I took my food pictures as usual

beef, chicken, lamb
Wendy You

As the first bite settled in, I knew I had to either quit early or sprint to the finish line. Don’t ask me about the taste of the phaal itself because my taste buds had most likely cowered and hidden somewhere other than my tongue.

It’s a shame–even through my milky, tear-ridden vision, I saw that the chicken breast cubes were plump and the curry was a kaleidoscope of deep reds and golden browns dotted with bright greens.

What kept me going was the physical projection of my pain through keeping myself restless, which in my mind, helped ease or at least take my mind off of the chemical pain. I cringe every time I see how it all must’ve looked to the few people standing behind the camera watching us torturing ourselves willingly.

The Aftermath

Wendy You

It turns out it didn’t matter what I ate that day at all, because it was all gone within five minutes of my arriving at my apartment. It’s a shame, too, because that Davey’s pistachio and Speculoos ice cream was decadent, and if anything, I would have liked to at least savor that in my body.

cream, chocolate, ice, milk, sweet, ice cream
Wendy You

In hindsight, I have to be grateful that I even got back to my apartment after what seemed like forever of train traffic uptown on the express A. Two hours of train traffic meant two hours of bending over in my subway seat trying to hold my stomach still. Every few minutes, needles pricked my abdomen internally, causing my eyes to water and my saliva to build up.

When my mind wasn’t occupied with stabilizing my fluids, it was instead brainstorming the course of action that I would take if suddenly these fluids demanded to escape while the train was underground with no sight of the world above.

Miraculously, I made it back to my apartment (barely) before these fluids escaped down the bathroom sink, although I made sure to put down my Phaal Curry Monster certificate in a safe, untouchable place first.

pizza, coffee, beer, tea
Ethan Beller

The sweater I'm wearing in all my glory above–my sister has always called it my throw-up sweater, referring to the jumbled swirl of colors. Turns out it fit this occasion perfectly.