Phaal: There are Better Ways to Stay Warm
There are many more sane ways to cozy up on a snowy day, but for some reason, today I got it into my head that I should go try the phaal at Brick Lane Curry House. Phaal is a chile-spiked curry, possibly South Indian in origin, that's zapped to almost unimaginable heat levels at Brick Lane, where the dish is listed with a disclaimer that the dish is "more pain and sweat than flavor." If you finish it, you get a certificate, a spot on the P(Hall) of Fame, and a free beer. I didn't really want a free beer at lunch, so I just got it to go, with paneer--hoping the dairy would cut the heat--and brought it back to my desk.
Emily Koh at Serious Eats finished it, as did Adam Richman on Man v. Food, but Adam Platt bowed out when he reviewed the restaurant. Smart man.
This is probably the hottest dish in the city. It is excruciating. I say this as someone who once lay on the floor of her cubicle, clutching her stomach, after an extract hot sauce tasting. (Extract hot sauces are made with capsaicin extract, the same thing that goes into pepper spray.)
Other than a nice, fresh ginger bite, there's nothing going going on in this dish except pure pain. (At least the restaurant is honest about this.) It's like eating an entire bowl of incendiary hot sauce, with a few measly bits of paneer thrown in. At first bite, it doesn't seem so hot, but it's the kind of heat that grows with time, just getting more and more painful, until you are sweating, and streaming from your eyes and nose.
Well, I finished it. I didn't scrape the bottom of the bowl, but I'm calling it. Now that I'm sitting here with a stomach that feels like it contains glowing coals, I'm wondering why I did that. And my hands are still cold.