The Spiciest Curry This Side Of The Atlantic


in Make Money, Productivity

Spicy food is in my blood. I’m pretty sure my Indian mom seeded my baby bottles with masala.

Yesterday, a friend (Craig) and I decided to take on the famous Phaal Curry from Brick Lane Curry House- the spiciest curry in the USA. It was featured in a Man vs Food episode. Winners get a free beer and their name on the “Phall” of Fame

I grew up in an Indian household, eating spicy food with every meal. Even after seeing how the chef prepared the curry—a gas mask required to prepare this mixture of 10 peppers, including habanero and ghost peppers—my friend and I both took it on.

We took a bite, and looked at each other. “This isn’t so spicy,” Ten seconds passed. Twenty. And then we began to sweat. I asked for a towel and began downing water faster than a NYFD truck fights fires.

I gave up within a minute.

Believe me: I was embarrassed. I lost instantly to my friend—a white friend, at that. Please don’t forward this email to my parents, as I think it would bring shame upon my family.

But for my friend—well, it was his second attempt at the Phaal. And he wasn’t willing to lose.

30 minutes passed. Everyone else had finished eating. Craig still had half a plate to go. And he just couldn’t eat anymore.

“My mouth has already been burned, it’s not the spice that is stopping me. I just can’t eat another bite. It’s too…much…food.”

He started to quit. He told us to call the waiter and cancel the bet. But the five other people at his dinner would let him.

“Hell no, you are not giving up. You need to digest. Let’s go outside and get some fresh air.”

Craig and I stepped outside in the cool New York Breeze. “Come on Craig. We’ll walk for 5 minutes, then do 10 pushups, then push through.”

We watched the passing taxis, Craig huddled in a standing fetal position against a wall, recognizing that the pain would shortly be appearing from all ends of his body.

“Screw it. 10 pushups, then let’s go in and murder it.”

Ten pushups on a NYC street later, and we were both back in the restaurant. Diners at three different tables were cheering him on. “Go Craig! Go Craig!”

And he pushed through. As he ate the last spoon, the entire back room erupted in applause and cheers.

Craig winning a place on the Phaal of Fame

Craig decided to walk home. A full 80 blocks. I’m sure he is coiling in pain over a toilet seat right now. Or still walking—80 blocks is really far.

But as I thought about Craig’s experience, I got suddenly motivated. Don’t we all have obstacles we are trying to overcome? For some, it’s Phaal Curry, but for others, it might be getting that job, approaching that beautiful girl or handsome boy across the room, or finally quitting smoking.
I thought hard about some goals I am trying to achieve, and how Craig demonstrated what it takes.
  • Acceptance of Failure and the Will to Persevere

    “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.” – Vince Lombardi
    Craig had tried to eat the spicy curry once before, and failed. But that’s okay, you don’t have to win on your first try. When trying to form a new habit, or build a new business, expect to fail. But plan to stand up and try again.
  • Collaboration‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

    Craig surrounded himself by supporters, not naysayers. When he was going to quit, hit support group wouldn’t let him. (I was probably the biggest critic, since I lost so quickly).Have you surrounded yourself with a support network? Or do you spend more time near critical people, who think you are going to fail? The people around you are the among the most influential factors in determining if you will succeed or fail.
  • Persistence“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence…Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin CoolidgeCraig was going to quit—but he rephrased the problem. “It’s not a quarter of the dish I have to complete. It’s just 3 big spoons. So, I’ll eat one big spoon. Then another. Then the last one.”In attacking any obstacle, you have to be unreasonably persistent and patient, and break down your problems into specific steps. As a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, the journey to the Phaal of Fame starts, continues, and ends with a single spoon of spicy curry.

Achieving a goal requires an acceptance (even expectation) of failure, collaboration, and persistence.

Think to yourself right now. What mountain have you been trying to overcome? What goal do you have in mind, but you don’t know how to proceed?
You need to try something. Taking action is the first step to achieving a goal. But you’ll also need to find or create a support network to bring your goal into reality. And then, just keep trying.



Corey McMahon November 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Whoa, serious props to Craig for pushing through and dominating that curry. I remember seeing that episode of Man Vs. Food and it was painful just watching!

Can we get an update on how your friend coped with “round 2”? (There’s always a round 2 with curry that spicy…)


Craig Anthony November 15, 2012 at 7:16 am

Hi Corey,

It’s funny…during my long walk afterwards I kept thinking to myself, “This is going to be disastrous.”

I’ve been excessively eating spicy stuff on a daily basis since I was a kid. Heck, the first time I ate a really hot pepper I was about 6 (it was a Bird’s Eye Chili). After crying I thought, “That was actually cool”. I liked the feeling and the rush of the heat. Since then, my body has developed a physical addiction to spicy things, so it handles things well.

But even for me, I knew the inevitable was coming.

Oddly, it never did! It’s as if the Curry Gods were impressed with my achievement and magically evaporated the substance from my body.

After leaving that restaurant I was completely fine, which is weird.


Annie Andre September 28, 2012 at 3:28 am

Loved this story and how you related it to overcoming some obstacle or fear. I would totally do that challenge since i’m half thai and my mom used to rub chili pepers on my lips to get me used to spices when i was just three years old. I digress.

One of my biggest challenges has been to overcome my shyness. i would continually push myself to do embarassing things and eventually have been able to manage it. I once entered a pig calling contest just to challenge myself and i won.

That moment has led me to do a bunch more life challenging goals.. And i can squeal like a pig now.. YAY!!


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