NAGA CURRY - AKA THE WORLD'S HOTTEST CURRY

The World’s Hottest Curry. It seemed like a challenge impossible to refuse. A gauntlet had been laid down, seemingly with my name on it. I had previously eaten what certainly seemed like the world’s hottest Chilli Con Carne, prepared for me by my husband who utilised not only fresh (and untraditional) Scotch Bonnet Chillies but also Chilli Powder and Cayenne Pepper. No amount of sour cream and boiled rice could cool that molten lava-like dish. According to him, this was not the hottest Chilli he had made. No, he had made one some years earlier that was so hot that even HE couldn’t it eat. He had to pour it away, thus causing the local underground sewage system to melt and warp ever so slightly. Or so the story goes.

Furthermore, I had made a Thai Green Curry last summer using, as the recipe demanded, fifteen Birds Eye Chillies. Anyone who is intimate with the capsicum family will know that along with the aforementioned Scotch Bonnets (used in many African and Caribbean dishes to add a distinctive taste as well as eye-searing heat), Birds Eye Chillies (originating from Thailand and an integral element of any Thai curry) are among the hottest chillies in the world, rating over 500,000 points on the Scoville Scale (the higher the points, the hotter the chilli). Moreover, if you leave the seeds in (and, lets be honest, who would want to deseed fifteen of those tiny chillies?), the heat element is multiplied tenfold.

My reckoning was this: if you add a whole can of coconut milk, plus a carton of coconut cream, that must surely calm the heat of the curry down to a pleasurable level. Incorrect. The coconut does certainly reduce the heat factor but these innocent looking little babies would have to be watered down in gallons not millilitres of fluid to reduce their spiteful heat. And they are so very appealing and tempting. You could just pop one in your mouth like one of those little marzipan fruits or vegetables. However, a well-made Thai Curry, be it yellow, green or red, is a wonderful dish and the heat element becomes addictive. In fact, chillies contain capsaicin, which, when consumed, produces endorphins that make you feel good, a bit like chocolate (and chilli and chocolate together is sensational). The taste is so good but the burning of the lips (caused by an the capsaicin, also a skin irritant), makes you eat slower. Good for digestion then. And then there’s the expectorating benefits. The hotter the curry, the more your nose starts to run so they’re great for a head cold as well or relieving congested sinuses.

The thing is, being a self-diagnosed super taster, of course chillies taste that much hotter to me, yet I still cling to the notion that the more of them I eat, the more my tongue will become hardened to them. Or perhaps calloused. I have demonstrated this ridiculous habit through munching into those thin, shiny red chillies that you can pick up at the supermarket: “see, these aren’t hot at all, you bunch of big babies!” Quickly followed by “excuse me whilst I slink off to get a long glass of cold water (and yes, I know that cold water doesn’t really sooth the burning caused by vicious chillies, but the psychology of cold defeating hot is a tough paradigm to break out of)...nothing to do with the chilli you understand, I...er...nevermind.”

You see, the whole chilli-eating thing has a great deal of machismo attached to it. Whether, spurred on by lager consumption, you’re determined to eat the hottest curry (which, in all honesty isn’t all that hot) from your local takeaway or take part in one of those raw chilli eating competitions so popular in Texas, it’s a real buzz to be able to eat something that not everyone is willing or able to consume. It’s a bit like eating game or drinking shots of alcohol or munching down on deep fried crickets: someone is bound to have the common sense to refuse. Writing from the point of someone who has tried game (but didn’t like it), necked shots of tequila (and snacked on the Agave worm too) and would sprinkle insects with Maldon salt, shut my eyes and bite down if they looked tasty enough, I would be the first to stand up and say ‘I am a hot food addict’.

There is a certain truth when people tell you that hot food really has no taste. That it is just hot, hot, hot. Couple this with food that is both temperature hot and spicy hot, any flavour that the dish in question may have is concealed very cunningly beneath a veil of actual physical discomfort. Therefore, any spicy dish is best eaten at a temperature slightly above room temperature (or just before it starts to unattractively congeal). I discovered this at the weekend when eating The World’s Hottest Curry.

Ah yes. The World’s Hottest Curry. A little gem discovered on Ebay whilst scouring for unusual ingredients, those four words screamed out at me. Made with Naga Jolokia Chillies (the Bangladeshi equivalent of the Scotch Bonnet or Birds Eye and who clock in at over 800,000 points on the Scoville scale), the curry mix, when it arrived, comprised of cinnamon sticks and probably ground cinnamon too, star anise, Garam Masala, Cumin seeds, Coriander Seeds, some ginger, Tumeric, and lots and lots of tiny little red chillies, all packed with their deadly cargo of fire cracker seeds. Or at least, that was what I could ascertain from a visual inspection and then an aroma inspection. And you could smell the heat as surely as you can smell the first cut grass of Springtime. The directions that came with the spices made note that the amount supplied could feed 10-12 people, catering for just two of us, I used half the packet. I like to work on the ethos that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I had bought some Greek yoghurt in anticipation and, forgetting the incident with the Green Thai Curry, proceeded with the recipe. Sweat down a couple of large onions, finely sliced until meltingly soft, add some finely chopped fresh Ginger, some garlic and cook gently for a few minutes more. Add your meat. We used chicken pieces but beef or pork would be really good. Once the meat is sealed, add some oil and water and the spice mix, bring to a boil, then turn down to a very slow simmer to allow the spices to meld with onion/meat mixture. These spices need slow, gentle cooking to release their aromatic flavours. After 20 minutes or so of slow simmering, I tasted the curry, seasoned it well with some sea-salt and at this point it wasn’t blow your socks off hot. It was more like chilli sauce with your chicken kebab on a Friday night hot. The kind of heat that’s tempered by an end of week drinking session. The curry was then transferred to a medium low (around 150c) oven and cooked for as long as you like. The longer you cook it, the more intensely coloured the curry becomes and meat starts to fall apart into delicious tender shards. After an hour or so, I switched the curry off, left it in the oven and went to bed. I reheated it, again in the slow oven, the next day, throwing in a handful of diced potatoes. An hour or so later, the potatoes have turned into Beet-Red cubes. The dish is ready. The anticipation was great. Our mouths were watering at the pungent, heavily fragranced smell as I removed the lid. I served the curry with Naan Bread, Plain Boiled Rice and a Paneer and Frozen Pea dish I found in a Nigella Lawson book. My husband prepped up a Tzatziki type relish, the Greek Yoghurt with some finely diced Cucumber stirred in. It was much needed! The flavour of the Naga Curry is contradictory. Fragrant and delicate when mixed with the Yoghurt and Cucumber yet hot and boisterous on it’s own. Like an illicit love affair, you know that you’re going to get hurt but you can’t stop yourself from indulging.

It really is a dish for the brave and/or foolhardy. My lips were tingling afterwards with minor burns from the Capsaicin yet I felt strangely invigorated. Eating a Naga curry is like jumping into the ice-cold North Sea. All your senses are suddenly awakened. For people who like to push themselves to the culinary limits, a Naga curry is a great place
start. There is only one person selling the kits on Ebay at the moment, The Curry Shop, who can also send you the mildest Korma spices if you want to take it a bit easier....

7 comments:

Chef from The Curry Shop said...

What can I say but how delighted I was that one of our most valuable not to say gifted customers and writers has taken the time to author this article. It is feedback of this nature that really makes me strive to create even more new and exotic dishes to present to you. I will be travelling back to North India later this year and will certainly be on the lookout for new and exciting ingredients not readily found on UK menu’s.

Not to miss an opportunity if you would be interested in receiving our latest menu and offers and also a 10% discount off any purchase please email me your email address at bangalorenaga@hotmail.co.uk. OR, search on “The Curry Shop” on eBay. Finally an update of events, firstly we have purchased the website “TheCurryShop.com” and a website is currently being developed with a view to it being launched later this year. Finally, may I thank everyone for their purchase support and kind feedback especially you Freya. Most Kind.

If you think you are up to challenge of the Naga please get in touch. Please also be aware we cover many different and authentic Indian dishes and cater for all tastes and heat ranges from Korma’s to Naga’s you decide.

Freya, thank you so very much for your kind words the Thai dish sounds interesting.

Spiciest Regards

CHEF.

3vil-twin said...

I am afraid that I am not as literate as the author of this article. However I can lay testament to the splendid spices supplied by The Curry Shop. I have purchased many "better than the local takeaway" kits over time and NONE of them ever lived upto thier claims UNTIL THE CURRY SHOP supplied me with a Pathia kit which I specified as Madras hot. AMAZING !!!! I will never buy a takeaway curry again.

tony said...

just a quick note from a tindaloo/phal man, the naga curry is explosive!but fun,i have also purchased the garlic chilli which is firey but very aromatic.
good luck to the curry shop,nice to know you can now make your own restaurant class dishes. well done.
tony.

tony said...

brilliant stuff guys! i have had the naga and garlic chilli and both come highly recommended.
i am trying the nepali next and i dont think it will dissapoint.!

Zoe n Iain said...

Firstly, I have to say the Naga almost lives upto it's name. Iain (my partner and resident spice expert) has made HOTTER curries than that for himself. Nobody else in the family or neighbourhood can eat them. ;-}

However, on the flavour front, even he admits the blend is pretty near perfect. He did add a touch more Star Anise but other than that, the kit was as spot on as you could ever expect. Certainly better than any takeaway curry you're ever likely to find.

It seems contradictory to say that a really hot curry can caress your tongue with gentle flavours at the same time it's melting your eyeballs but the case of the Naga kit this is totally true. We've reverse engineered it and can get close enough to enjoy the result but there's no substitute for having it blended by a professional. Well, well, well worth a try. Especially as it's damned cheap for the quantity you get, as well.

CHRIS SMITH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike said...

I have taken to eating flakes of naga chillies as a tiny, devillishly hot snack.