What a disappointment.
The Wall Street Journal’s “Real Time China” blog reported mid-August (2014) that Beijing’s Fu Niu Tang Hunan noodle restaurant laid claim to serving “the world’s spiciest bowl of noodles,” “125 times as hot as Tabasco (sauce)”.
What’s the ChiliCult-ist to do when he arrives in Beijing on business just around that time? Plan on going there, of course.
Now, not that I’m completely ecstatic about chilli-related competitions. They tend to support the wrongheaded assumption that chilli is about nothing but the pungency when it’s really about so much more.
The fitting flavors for distinct dishes, first of all.
But then, the chilli used was reportedly the (Sichuanese, not Hunanese) “seven-star chilli,” a kind of chaotianjiao (“facing-heaven chilli”), which is just the type of chilli that Chinese cooking would use when something is to get way spicy, but fit with the tastes of Chinese dishes.
Had they used capsaicin extract or habaneros, I would have just written them off. Like that, though, it all fit. So, I had to go.
However, hardly anyone (especially not the WSJ) also reported their location. Then, most places gave a location in China’s “World Financial Center”.
Here you go:
As you can probably imagine, that is not the place – and the people there said that it’s probably the restaurant one would want to go to, and it’s nearby, in Chaowai SOHO (which location I had only heard about today, for the first time ever, thanks to Smart Beijing’s rather disconcerting description of the experience with those noodles).
But – excellent reporting, my dear Wall Street Journal team! (and everyone else…) – it turned out that “the world’s spiciest bowl of noodles” was only a competition they were holding this summer, not a regular, if peculiar, item on their menu.
So, all those websites now still talking about that and making it sound like good travel advice for the spicy food-fanatic are for naught.
Sullen, I went for the spiciest they had on offer now, a bowl of mala / numbing-spicy beef noodles. Inquiry produced the response that these were about a tenth of what the competition noodles would have been like.
They were tasty, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the most authentic of Hunan tastes, as a clear chilli-heat is much preferred over the numbing-spicy/mala flavor there, and they were gone in five minutes and hardly produced a dampness on my scalp, no more.
I may well be back for the taste of (Hunan) home, but it was still a disappointment. Will the competition be back? “Maybe” was the reply.