In search for world’s spiciest dish

While researching on Goan cuisine, I read many articles that pegged vindaloo prepared with ghost pepper as one of the ‘ten spiciest dishes in the world’.

There could be no better place than Goa to try it, then. After all, the dish is known to the world as a Goan delicacy.

Curiosity drove me to read more about the pepper that is also known as bhut jolokia and nagamorich. Ghost pepper is over 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce and Guinness World Records has recognized it as the hottest pepper in the world.

There was a long list of videos on Youtube of people experimenting with the pepper. One video began with a warning: Don’t try this at home. In another, a person looks at the pepper with enthusiasm and with a smile at the beginning. Ten second after eating the pepper, he swears until the end of the video that is around three minutes in length, and continuously consumes one glass of milk after the other.

I love spicy food, be it fiery Hyderabad’s Biryani or spice-fused Saoji from Nagpur. Nothing speaks as loud in a dish as the spices used in them. And eating vindaloo prepared with ghost pepper appeared challenging. I questioned myself if it would be possible to finish an entire dish. Ghost pepper is not a common spice in Indian households. No one in my family was aware about it. Friends, who have knowledge about food, were only excited to know existence of such a pepper. I packed my bags with strips of antacid to be handy on my culinary adventure.

I was, however, clueless about the hotels in region that serve the preparation. I could not manage to find any on internet either. The only option was to search a restaurant after reaching Goa.

Though I don’t particularly like Calangute for the hoard of tourists that swarms the beach, I stayed there as it had more upmarket restaurants in its vicinity than any other place. My hotel was less than a minute away from the beach. I could not feel the breeze in my room’s balcony as there were many shops between the beach and the hotel.

It’s never been difficult to befriend hotel staff and talk to the chef but in Goa it proved difficult because I was traveling alone. Goa is the fun capital of the country, full of visitors in groups, who have come down to party; to frolic on the beach and in water; to drink more than they can handle; and have all the fun and nuisances that you can associate with group travel. At many restaurants, I had to call out twice-thrice before someone would take the order. At some places, the loud music made it impossible to talk to the staff. Anyone, who did not want to shout on top of their lungs, had to point in the menu for their orders. But I was determined to have my pork vindaloo prepared with ghost pepper.

I was eating three full meals a day and traveled from one beach to the other in search of recommended restaurants. So, I had to hire a bike. In Goa, you cannot do without a vehicle. You need to choose the vehicle with care. On the first day, I went for a cheaper 100 cc bike. It started giving me trouble when it met hilly terrain on my way to Fort Aguada. It would heat up and stop functioning. I had to wait until the engine catches its breath and move further. Next day I hired a powerful 350cc bike.

With the bike, I had decided to explore restaurants in Panjim, Madgaon, Baga, Condolim, Calagute and Vagator for the vindaloo. As search on internet didn’t yield any help, I thought of first consulting with the owner of my hotel. “You get all kind of food here, son. Go to (obvious hotels) Titto, Brittos, Souza Lobo…” he suggested.

As I traveled from, restaurant-to-restaurant, I started losing hope of a bout with the fiery dish. Whenever I mentioned ghost pepper or its other common names, I got either a blank stare or the staff had a frown. Every hotel had vindaloo on its menu. Every waiter claimed it to be a spicy dish. But when I asked about the pepper part, they returned a perplex smile. Some were aware of the combination but said that they don’t serve it. Some mention exotic restaurants that are part of big hotels like Taj Hotels. They were out of my budget.

My last resort was an author of a food guide on Goa, whom I had contacted for initial research. I emailed her inquiring about the hotel that would serve me vindaloo with ghost pepper and I am awaiting her response until today.

I tried to reason with myself on unavailability of the vindaloo preparation. I guess it is more of a marketing tool for Indian restaurants abroad. It’s like Phall, a dish that originated in Indian restaurants in UK, but is not commonly available in India.

As for strips of antacid, they still proved to be a savior to keep my three full meals going.

Vindaloo pictures

Author: Tinesh Bhasin

Presently, a freelance writer, he has worked as a business journalist for over seven years

Comments

  1. I have been to Goa once, it is a nice place to chill out from busy life. I did try to Vindaloo photos and enjoyed it. After reading your article, it brings back those happy memories.
    Kar

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