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Chalain - Wall of Flames

Mar. 21st, 2010 08:10 pm Wall of Flames

I have two rules when it comes to eating spicy food:

  1. Never Back Down. I have proven to myself repeatedly that it's all just a matter of mind over pain, and that I can get anything, at any heat level, down my gob if I really want to.
  2. Never Brag. Because I have also learned that two minutes of "mind over pain" is often followed by ten hours of gut-wrenching regret.

There's an unwritten third rule, which basically says "Don't Tell People These Rules", because every time I have, some jerk ends up seeing how far I'm willing to go with Rule 1. I am retiring both rules here today, the first one because I'm telling the whole world about it and the second one because, well, I've earned it.

Yesterday I won China Wok's "Wall of Flame" challenge.

My endorphin-fueled hot sauce addiction comes in waves, and I was just starting into a solid round of saucing when I found out about the challenge. I read about the challenge on Larry Correia's blog (which is a hilarious read). My so-called "friend" Randy Tayler told me about it, and then of course, dared me to do it.

Jerk.

Here's the challenge: You eat a plate of insanely spicy food. If you can eat it all in 30 minutes, you get your meal free, you get your picture on the wall, you get a $50 gift certificate, and you get to come back and compete on TV when 'Man vs. Food' comes to the restaurant.

Well, I was already in good form with hot sauce... so I decided, what the heck. I started training in earnest, bringing hot sauce with me to meals and spicing things up in utterly insane ways. I ate a lot of Thai food and added habanero sauce to everything else. On Friday I put a tablespoon of Blair's Megadeath sauce on a cheeseburger and ate it. It turns out, that was the hottest thing I ate all week, including the challenge. Oh my head that was hot. For those of you understand the Scoville Scale, Blair's Megadeath is 550,000 Scovilles.

The day of the contest, I decided to "warm up" by eating a teaspoon of Dave's Ultimate Insanity sauce. I had forgotten the Blair's at work. (Note to self: get the sauce out of the fridge before somebody hurts themselves.) Dave's Ultimate is about 300,000 Scovilles, so this was certainly enough to put the hurt on me:

01-daves_insanity

The careful reader will note that there's only about half a teaspoon on there. This is because I zapped myself, and then decided it wasn't enough, so I did it twice.

02-eating_insanity

I am such an idiot.

...Idiot like a fox! See, when you eat crazy hot stuff, your body reacts by releasing endorphins. Your body suffuses with this happy warm glow (hint: this rush is why I get addicted to hot sauce!) and more importantly, your tongue goes a little bit numb. My plan was to be pre-numbed just a little bit and to already be in the "hot sauce happy zone" when I arrived at the restaurant.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don't try this! I had never tried eating such a large quantity of straight sauce before this, and about two minutes after this photo was taken, I doubled up in agony. My mouth had become accustomed to straight habanero sauce, by my stomach hadn't. My gut tied itself up in intense cramps, I broke out in sweats, and I lay on the floor in the bathroom for five minutes wondering if I had injured myself too much to compete. Happily, after five minutes, things settled down and I was okay. But still, don't ever try eating this stuff straight. Put it on some food at least, to give your poor stomach a fighting chance.

Anyway, after that little interlude, I got underway with Randy and my wife Liz, and we made the 90-minute drive to Layton, Utah, to the China Wok II restaurant, located at 1266 South Legend Hills Drive.

03-china_wok

I told Colby, our friendly waiter, that I was there for the Wall of Flame Challenge, and he gets all serious and starts going over the rules. "Their meals are normal price," he tells me gesturing at Liz and Randy. "Yours will be $10." I nod agreeably; hot sauce is not cheap and it honestly sounds like there could be several dollars worth of capsaicin extract on my plate. I also found out later that, for safety reasons, the owner of restaurant tests every dish to make sure he's not killing the patrons. He puts one spoonful of hot sauce in the contestant's meal... and then he eats two spoonfuls himself. This is the other reason I try to never brag: There is ALWAYS somebody out there crazier than you.

Actually, I just thought of a really good rule of thumb: If you think you're the craziest dude in the world, you should go to a crazy contest to prove it, because there you will meet the guy running the contest.

Anyway, it's all nods and smiles, and then Colby hands me The Waiver I have to sign. I am not kidding:

the_disclaimer

I laughed at this, and then flipped the page and saw the actual verbiage of the contract.

the_contract

I love the bit where I am waiving the right to sue them for attempting to resuscitate me. I laughed, a little less heartily, perhaps.

Anyway, I signed the waiver . Colby then points at my water glass and says, "Just so you know, you should only look at that glass. You're only allowed one glass of water, and that's it right there." That sobered me up a bit.

We ordered our food. The Wall of Flame challenge allowed me to pick any dish I wanted; they spice it up. I ordered the orange chicken, partly because I love orange chicken, and partly because orange chicken is a very sweet dish. You know the old trick of eating bread to calm down a hot sauce? Well, it turns out that sugar is even better at it. (Try it sometime: eat a hot pepper and then take a lick of pancake syrup.)

My aforementioned and still so-called "friend" Randy Tayler came along to point and laugh. He also got the orange chicken. You will notice in a moment that my dish looks considerably more... well, I think satanic is the right word here.

04-randy

My wife Liz came too. I thought she was there for moral support; it turned out that she was there for exactly the same reason as Randy. She got the sweet and sour chicken.

05-liz

And then, the moment we were all waiting for....

06-wall_of_flames

SURPRISE! It's not just a plate of orange chicken. It's not just a plate of orange chicken doused in molten lava. It's a pound and a half of food! At this point I know I'm in huge trouble, because I am not a fast eater. I would have trouble eating this meal in 30 minutes even if it had no spice on it at all.

But I gave it my best try.

07-eating_it

The training paid off. The sauce, as prepared in the final dish, is by my estimate between 150,000 and 250,000 Scovilles. It is INSANELY hot. We shot video of my entire meal, and the entire time I am rocking, fidgeting, stamping my feet, etc. I did do one thing that intrigued the owners, however: I didn't touch my rice, soup or egg roll.

The side dishes are there to give you "control rods" to slow down the nuclear reaction in your mouth. If the dish is too hot for you, a bite of rice will cool it down a lot better than a sip of water.

The thing is, I knew I probably didn't have enough time to eat everything, so I didn't want to fill up on rice and leave half the chicken behind. So I tucked straight into the chicken. I ate maybe one forkful of rice through the entire meal. I didn't even taste the soup or egg roll. My plan was to finish the spicy food and then just glomp the side dishes all at once.

This strategy attracted the attention of, well, everyone. By the time I was 25 minutes in, both waiters, the cook, and the owner were standing by my table watching me plow straight through the chicken. (This was entirely due to my valor and bravery. I am sure it had nothing at all to do with the fact that we were the only people in the restaurant. Shut up.)

08-all_finished

I finished the hot stuff at exactly 30 minutes, stuffing the last bite of chicken in as they were counting down 3... 2... 1... etc. I still hadn't touched the rice or soup or egg roll. I thanked everyone for a good game, and acknowledged that I had not, in fact, won the challenge. It was just too much food.

The cook agreed, but then spoke briefly with the owner in chinese. "Here's what we're gonna do," he said. "You did not win the official challenge, but it's obvious that it was the quantity. You handled the spice just fine. So here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna declare you a winner and put your picture on the wall with a time of 30:00. We're not going to give you the $50 gift certificate, but we're going to give you your meal free, and we're going to take your phone number. When Man vs. Food comes, we're going to invite you back to compete with the rest of the winners."

Holy crap, did he just say what I thought he said? Holy crap, he did!

I won!

I think I'm the only person to get on the wall by TKO rather than outright winning, but I'll take it!

On the way out, I asked for more details about the Man vs. Food challenge. Colby said that they will be "stepping it up a notch" for the TV challenge.

I think... I think I'm glad I just retired my two rules. They're going to call me... and I'm probably going to back down.

Current Mood: hothot
Current Music: Eye of the Tiger

17 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Next Entry

Comments:

From:misterflames
Date:March 22nd, 2010 03:41 am (UTC)
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Shiny Thing, I love you dearly... but Zoraster on a Moped, boy, you *worry* me.
From:chalain
Date:March 22nd, 2010 04:05 am (UTC)
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Hee! That is the nicest thing you've ever said to me. Thanks! :-)
From:howardtayler
Date:March 22nd, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
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Vermilion's Chili, it BURR^^^^ no, wait... This chili's fine now. The scale seems to have been reset...
From:ilcylic
Date:March 22nd, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
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That's like, three chickens worth of orange chicken.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)

Take precautions this week.

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I suggest nomex underwear and pants, because if you fart, all hell is going to break loose, and the firemen aren't going to enter an area filled with flames and toxic death.
From:chalain
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)

Re: Take precautions this week.

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This is good advice in theory. In practice, however, all hell still breaks loose; only my pants survive.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 22nd, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)

dude, you are insane!

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But congratulations on winning :-) you should totally take the challenge when the call!
From:timcharper.myopenid.com
Date:March 22nd, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)

Re: dude, you are insane!

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PS ^ that's my comment.
From:chalain
Date:March 23rd, 2010 02:43 am (UTC)

Re: dude, you are insane!

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Hee! Thank you. I am tempted, now that I've had a day or two to cool off. We went to Del Taco and I had some of their ancho chili sauce ("Del Inferno" Sauce, tastes like it's maybe 25,000 Scovilles?) and it was DELICIOUS.

I got to thinking... hmmm... I could just... sort of... stay... in training....

One of my coworkers loves Man vs. Food and wants to start training for the Wall of Flame so he can be on the show. I may be forced to co-train with him just for the fun of it.

Also, Liz had a really evil idea: I need to try the Wall of Flame again, but with *noodles* intead of chicken. What killed me was all the *chewing* I had to do.

Thanks, man!
From:hmoulding
Date:March 22nd, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)

Congrats!

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However, I wonder about the culinary habits of someone who apparently uses patent leather kitchen curtains. Winning the "Wall of Flame" challenge should come as no surprise.
From:chalain
Date:March 23rd, 2010 02:38 am (UTC)

Re: Congrats!

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LOL! We have nothing so fancy as that. That's actually a silver foil "space blanket" draped over a curtain rod. It looks even more ghetto than the photo makes it appear, but it really does keep the summer sun out of our (west-facing) kitchen window!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 22nd, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)

Not often will I...

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Applaud a Stumble, but as a former hot eater, you've shared your story so I'll share mine.

My grandfather grew up in Indonesia, and loved to eat sambal until he cried. For some reason (he died when I was 7) I took this as a challenge.

I went to an international school and when I was about 13 or so a young (Asian) Indian/American lad thought he could eat hotter than me. I grossed him out eating his challenge peppers as if they were treats.

I had a part-time job washing dishes when I was 17, and when I told the other guys at the restaurant I liked sambal, they gave me an irresistible challenge: to eat a pot of it. Now, this sambal wasn't anything like the Scoville rating you are talking about, but it was pure pepper. And this was a commercial jar, almost full, and so I had more than a pound and a half - they were actually begging me to stop at 2/3 empty, but I kept on taking another spoonful. I savoured it too, although not so much the ring sting the next day....

And in college, Rag Week, there was a contest involving 3 different foods (in separate events): roast potatoes, custard, and chilli peppers with the hottest chilli sauce from the local kebab shop. The first two were timed volume tests and EWW. My prize for the last?

Plain yoghurt tastes incredibly sweet after spicy food!

My mouth and even gut can (could?) handle hot. But you are absolute correct in your rule #2. The stories are fun, but I'm not bragging. Well, anonymously at worst ;)

Mind you, my worst experience was not at the back exit, but with a Phall (very hot curry) which had no other flavours and very greasy meat coming out the way it came in - and then being locked in the loo....
From:chalain
Date:March 23rd, 2010 02:40 am (UTC)

Re: Not often will I...

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Awesome, thank you for sharing!

I have, mercifully, never experienced the phenomenon known as "boomerang curry". I can imagine it, however, and I am none too eager to verify.

A pound and a half of pure peppers... ohhhh my head. I tip my hat to you, sir! (Please do not vomit peppers into it.)
From:singingnettle
Date:March 23rd, 2010 04:43 am (UTC)
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Congratulations, I think. Also I think that declining is a good call.
From:oldcurlywolf
Date:March 23rd, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC)
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Found the link for this on Larry's blog.
Dude..you're insane! lol.
Also a braver man than I. I won't even touch habenero's.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 23rd, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)

Man vs. Food: Scoville 1 million?

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http://www.boingboing.net/2010/03/23/taste-testing-the-wo.html

This link has been posted as a public service warning.
From:agilebrit
Date:March 24th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
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I'm here via Larry's blog, and I still want to try this.

Although I am intimidated by the sheer volume of food, there.