Imagine returning to your car after you’ve left it out in the hot sun all afternoon. Open your door and an insufferable heat billows out of the interior. Grip the steering wheel and your hands feel like they are trying to hold on to a red-hot steel bar. Now, if you lick the searing hot bodywork, you will have an idea of what eating phall is like.
Phall curry is one of the hottest types of curries in the world. It utilizes a blend of chilies — which often includes the notorious naga bhut jolokia chili — which create an intense, body-searing heat. At around one million Scoville Heat Units — the scale used to measure spicy heats — the naga bhut jolokia is one of the hottest chilies in the world; almost three times that of the habanero.
I had the pleasure of joining spicy food aficionado Jiri Hudecek and his friends at Glory of India on Fourth Avenue S.W. to try this unique dish. In order to create their version of phall, Glory of India utilizes a house blend of different chilies which are left to marinate for six months, allowing them to condense into a spicy mélange while still retaining their natural flavours.
Within the first three bites, the slow pulsating heat spread throughout my face and body, causing me to shed a few tears. My companions weren’t doing much better as puffed up red eyes, suddenly cleared sinuses and uncontrollable streams of sweat quickly manifested. Dinner conversation quickly descended into cries of, “Oh dear God” and playful pleads of, “Why did you bring me here?”
Although the phall was by far the spiciest thing I had ever eaten, it did not completely coat my mouth and incinerate my tastebuds as I had anticipated. I was still able to taste the ginger and garlic in the curry and enjoy the nuttiness in a piece of papadum, albeit after swilling a cooling glass of mango lassi.
Usually, when I have curry, I look for a balance of spiciness and earthy flavours. I wouldn’t call phall a proper balance of the two, but it does give those who have an insatiable craving for fiery food a new goal on their endorphin-flooding quest.
So why would I, an apparently normal person who can’t take exceptionally hot food, want to try phall? The simple answer lies deep inside my male primitive brain: bragging rights. Past my culinary curiosity, past my search for new experiences, there is a part of my brain that takes pride in saying, “I’ve voluntarily eaten something that should be considered a chemical weapon.”
That line of reasoning is also part of the disputed, almost mythic, origins of phall. You will not find phall curry in India, it is a creation of the U.K., much like chicken tikka masala. Some say that it was created as a result of British yobbos trying to one-up each other in eating the spiciest curry. Yet others claim it was the invention of shop owners who exacted revenge on drunken 2 a.m. patrons who would wander in demanding curry and then run out on their cheques. Considering how many tales there are, I don’t think anyone will uncover the true origins of the dish.
It is rare to see phall served outside of the U.K. or New York, but for thrill-seeking Calgarians like Jiri Hudecek, Glory of India will introduce you to a bowl of phall if you call ahead and ask nicely. Don’t be surprised, however, if you are asked to sign a waiver releasing them of any ill effects you might suffer from eating this dish. After all, not all constitutions can take the heat and it is unfair to blame the creators should you be so unfortunate.
For those who are now raring to conquer: You have been WARNED : Phall is something that should only be attempted by the stoutest of gastronomes and the steeliest of guts, as you will, without a doubt, be subjecting yourself to some serious pain and some extra time on the thunder bucket in the morning.