Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce / Real Life
In Real Life, there are generally two classes of spice substances that can be considered in the realm of Blazing Inferno (each links to the Other Wiki
- Capsaicin, found in chili peppers and anything based on them.
- Allyl isothiocyanate, found in mustard, horseradish, wasabi, and related plants (within the cabbage family Brassicaceae).
There's also hydroxy-alpha sanshool
, found in Sichuan peppercorns; it has a unique "numbing-spicy" characteristic that makes it quite good (and prized in Sichuan cuisine) for complementing one of the others, and particularly capsaicin, in a sauce or other preparation, but mostly useless for making a blazing-hot sauce on its own. Oh, and there's Piperine,
found in black pepper and other peppercorns, which adds a bite and a kick but is very difficult to make a really fiery sauce with; however, like sanshool, it's an excellent accompaniment to the others, although combinations with piperine and allyl isothiocyanate lead to more interesting flavors than ones with piperine and capsaicin (piperine and capsaicin have very similar mechanisms of action, but piperine is much less intense—pure piperine is "only" about as spicy as a "mild" habanero).
Unlike the others, capsaicin is virtually insoluble in water, so washing your mouth with water, soda, or tea after you bite more than you can chew is rather ineffective. It is, however, readily dissolved in fats or ethanol, so a glass of non-skim milk or a shot of liquor would make you feel better almost instantly. This is why creamy sauces (like ranch dressing) go well with spicy foods like hot wings (creamy sauces are typically fatty so help control the spicy sensation) and why poppers (gutted jalapenos filled with cheese sauce) aren't as spicy as they look (most of the spice has been removed; what's left is tempered by the fatty cheese). It's also possible to use a common alcohol-based mouthwash to wash it out.
There are several real-life "hot sauces" that aren't actually sauces at all. They're either novelty bottles of pure capsaicin in a vegetable oil carrier, or they're "Food-Service Grade capsaicin", intended for use only as an ingredient, not a condiment. Such "sauces" can be lethally toxic when consumed at condiment levels. Don't just take our word for it. Here's the MSDS for the stuff.
It bears noting that while there are innumerable brands of hot sauce out there with names like Torch, Hell's Breath, and the like, many are actually the same sauce - as in "made at the same time, using the same recipe, by the same manufacturer, just put into bottles with different labels". This naturally hasn't stopped hot sauce aficionados from getting into huge fights over which is the best.
It's also worth noting that Capsaicin and Allyl isothiocyanate have very different chemical mechanisms and very different results when consumed. Capsaicin produces a burning sensation on the surfaces it touches (lips, tongue, skin) by activating the heat/pain receptors in the relevant tissues,note
while Allyl isothiocyanate instead produces a vapor that attacks the nasal passages and sinuses (it does
partially activate some of the same pain receptors as capsaicin, hence the widely-recognized similarity) and is a lachrymator;note
it's largely for this reason that while capsaicin has a wide array of foods it can be "safely" applied to, allyl isothiocyanate is primarily (although not solely) good at enhancing meaty flavors (as the way it causes "heat" interacts with meaty flavor somehow)—hence the association of horseradish with roast beef, mustard with sausages, and wasabi with fish (particularly meatier fishes like tuna). This difference in chemical mechanisms also means that a person who is adapted to capsaicin may find themselves overwhelmed by a relatively mild dose of Allyl isothiocyanate, and vice versa.
Allyl isothiocyanate (Horseradish, Wasabi, Mustard)
- A restaurant in Tallahassee, Florida, was once shut down by the Leon County Health Department on charges of toxic chemical contamination (and the owner cited for Reckless Endangerment) after they began featuring food that had been spiced up with one of the pure capsaicin "sauces"
- Enjoy this profanity-laden anecdote about food allegedly including some of that sauce.
- In Minneapolis, there's a place called Marla's Caribbean. It serves Ghost Pepper Wings - buffalo wings made with ghost pepper sauce. Bear in mind, ghost pepper is usually applied with an eyedropper.
- The phaal, a Bangladeshi-British speciality whose selling point is that it's basically meat in Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce. Although it does often use copious amounts of a variety of chillies (easily including Dorset Nagas aka a kind of ghost pepper), the fact that it also uses ginger, brown mustard seeds and black pepper should also be noted. Yup — there's no hot button unpushed.
- Most curry houses don't actually list it on the menu but will serve it if you specifically ask for it; the staff will look on warily as you eat. If it's anything to go by, it's hotter than the vindaloo, and even that's overpowered to the tongues of many. According to Jasper Carrott, the phaal is so called because the usual response after eating it is "FFFFFFFFFFFFFF... I'll be all right...". The Geordies attempted to one-up it with the even hotter 'magmaloo', which according to Carrott comes in a bowl made of Space Shuttle re-entry tiles, comes with a side order of Savlon, and has a tendency to melt spoons. And fillings.
- Another legend is that "phaal" is a Bengali word meaning "stupid drunk white man".
- There's a curry house in Edinburgh that held a phaal-eating contest that ended up hospitalising several of its contestants. Said curry house has clippings of the newapaper story in its window as advertising. Possibly the only time "our food induces vomiting" has been cited as a positive quality.
- Jeremy Clarkson once wrote a blog article called Help, quick - I've unscrewed the top on a ticking time bomb in which he ingested one of these and rapidly realized his error.
Burns victims often say that when they are actually on fire, there is no pain. It has something to do with the body pumping out adrenaline in such vast quantities that the nerve endings stop working. Well, it wasn’t like that for me. The pain started out mildly, but I knew from past experience that this would build to a delightful fiery sensation. I was even looking forward to it. But the moment soon passed. In a matter of seconds I was in agony. After maybe a minute I was frightened that I might die. After five I was frightened that I might not.
- Certain parts of Africa cover up the low quality of their beef by cooking it in a concoction known as "pepper soup" using small wild peppers which seem to only be used for that purpose. It is successful in covering the taste of the beef, as well as everything else for the next week.
- On a different note, South Africa has, since the mid-2000s or so, become world-renowned for its sauces prepared from the very spicy African birdseye or peri peri pepper.
- Korean kimchi—typically consisting of fermented napa cabbage (that is to say, it's almost sauerkraut), but with a massive hit of spice, particularly very hot chili peppers. It was once described as "the culinary equivalent of undead", and indeed the traditional method of kimchi preparation bears significant similarities to Haitian folklore's description of how to make a zombi. Several varieties (of kimchi, not zombies) are just painful to even smell, let alone eat. South Korea has very low rates of intestinal parasite infection and tooth decay, but also high rates of stomach cancer; however, the blame for this latter goes to the nitrates kimchi contains, not the hellfire spices.
- Mapo Doufu, a Chinese dish from Sichuan, consists of tofu in a bean-based sauce heavily seasoned with chilis and Sichuan peppercorns. That Other Wiki describes it as "powerfully spicy" (using those exact words).
- It's popular enough in Japan to show up as the go-to example for hotly spiced food in anime, manga and visual novels, such as in Angel Beats!! and Fate/stay night.
- Iron Chef Chen Kenichi, who specializes in Sichuan cooking, usually toned down his mapo doufu when he made it to better suit the palates of the (mostly Japanese) judges. In the King of Iron Chefs tournament, when he took on Kobe in Battle Tokyo X (a type of crossbred pork), he decided that since it might be his final battle, he'd go all out and make his mapo doufu how he'd have it, i.e. extra spicy. One of the cameramen who stood too close to it started coughing just from the fumes and had to pull away. Sumo yokozuna Akebono (who, perhaps significantly, is American—he's from Hawaii) enjoyed it though.
- Sichuan cuisine is infamous and a local joke says the people there essentially worry that a dish isn't spicy enough, though the peppers responsible for the heat (and the blood red color of dishes that use lots of it) also have a numbing effect. This has to do with the liberal use of Sichuan pepper, which has small black hot seeds in a deep red leathery shell that has a numbing effect on the palate.
- One traditional variant of "Chinese Chili Chicken" requires you to heat a pot of peppers to boiling point, then cook the chickens in it. It basically fries the chicken in chili oil, with little else seasoning it. Diners are expected to eat only the chicken, but most people eat the peppers anyways. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this dish is generally associated with "Indo-Chinese" cooking (not in the sense of dishes from "Indochina", but rather from Chinese people/people of Chinese descent in India and catering to Indian tastes).
- Another Sichuan dish is innocently called (translated) "Water Boiled Fish". What the name omits is that said water is basically a broth of the hottest chilis the chef can get. The fish is indeed boiled in the water, but as they usually select whitefish for the dish, it results in the fish taking on tremendous heat. Much like the Chili chicken above, you're only expected to eat the fish, not the chili and most certainly not the broth, but some people do anyways as one side effect if Sichuan cooking is that it makes you addicted to the high heat, even if you're not normally a chili eater.
- Hunan cuisine is related, if differing slightly in the fine details; Sichuan's numbing heat involves the use of Sichuan peppercorns to complement the chilis, whereas Hunan cuisine has no compunctions about constantly reminding its consumers of its spiciness by virtue of pure chili volume.
- Guizhou cuisine is related to both Sichuan and Hunan cooking (Guizhou province borders both Hunan and Sichuan), and is known for its sour-spicy cooking (featuring a lot of pickled vegetables) that goes remarkably well with the ridiculously powerful local liquor (Maotai, China's most famous form of baijiu—that's "white liquor", made from sorghum and distilled to a strength that makes Russian vodka look like light beer—is from Guizhou). It is, if anything, spicier than Hunan and Sichuan cooking. The Chinese even have a saying: “四川人不怕辣, 湖南人辣不怕, 贵州人怕不辣 (Sìchuānrén búpà là, Húnánrén là búpà, Guìzhōurén pà búlà.)”—"Sichuan people are not afraid of spiciness, Hunan people don’t fear eating spicy food, no matter how spicy it is, and Guizhou people are afraid of eating food that isn’t spicy."
- In 2007, part of central London was evacuated when fumes from a Thai restaurant cooking up a large batch of chilli sauce sparked fears of a chemical weapon attack.
- Similarly, in 2013, the producers of America's favorite brand of Sriracha sauce—not a particularly blazing hot saucenote —were sued by residents of the California town in which their factory is located on the grounds that the fumes from the plant constituted a public nuisance and had caused some citizens breathing trouble (the court eventually decided that the evidence was insufficient to show a nuisance, but that the suit was brought in the first place and wasn't thrown out for being frivolous is impressive...).
- A few manufacturers of overtly spicy sauces:
- Blair's, who created the one that illustrates the main page (and the maker of the sauce described in the anecdote linked near the top). Best part? It's not even their strongest. They even made a limited edition product with pure capsaicin, reaching 16 million Scoville units - several times hotter than pepper spray
- While we're on the subject, police-issue pepper spray can easily hit 5 million Scoville units. One part pure capsaicin to two parts aerosol propellant, but your eyes won't be feeling very much of the dilution.
- Maitland, Florida restaurant Tijuana Flats, whose hottest sauce (Smack My Ass and Call Me Sally - Chet's Gone Mad) is about 1.5 million Scoville units, more than enough to actually feel burning on your skin if you placed some on there.
- Nicko McBrain's restaurant Rock N' Roll Ribs (also in Florida). The escalation even uses songs from Nicko's band to lampshade: it started with Mild, Medium, Hot, Run to the Hills. Then it became Mild, Medium, Hot, Die with your Boots On (which replaced RTTH after one complained it wasn't hot enough), and Heaven Can't Wait.
- Many restaurants specializing in hot wings will offer some sort of challenge to anyone who can eat a certain number of their hottest wings in a fixed amount of time. Some up the ante by saying that the customer is not allowed to consume anything else within five minutes that would counter the burn.
- In 2015, Buffalo Wild Wings offered a ghost pepper-based sauce, and later reformulated their Blazin' sauce, the hottest on their menu, to use ghost peppers as the heat source.
- Wasabi, a Japanese plant in the same family as horseradish (and cabbage!), is another notable variant. A Japanese team won the 2011 Ig-Nobel prize for chemistry for patenting a fire alarm for the deaf that sprays out aerosolized wasabi. The smell of wasabi can wake up sleepers in under 10 seconds. While clever, such an invention is sadly kneecapped by wasabi's notoriously short shelf-life.
- Unlike capsaicin-based heat, the effect of wasabi doesn't last very long. Indeed, much of its popularity originates in the fact that it can produce quite a strong heat, which then goes away quickly and doesn't obstruct or distort its consumer's sense of taste for the rest of the meal.
- Horseradish, western cousin of wasabi. Especially one sauce used in Ukraine - it is mixed with Russian Mustard, which is damn hot already and an extra helping of salt. It does taste good with borscht, if you apply it in a thin layer on bread. Because wasabi has such a short shelf life, many places will use colored horseradish as an imitation wasabi.
- Mustards usually don't go as hot as pepper-based sauces, but Russian mustard takes the cake. Even in small quantities it's a fine (but not nice) cure for snuffle. It is because Russian mustard is a) made with brown (AKA Indian) mustard seed, which is more potent, and b) because it is traditionally brewed with boiling water, which extracts much more of the active compound. A half-teaspoon of a good Russian mustard will make your eyes pop out.
- To unsuspecting continentals, especially Germans and Frenchmen, English mustardnote can do this. Americans raised on that bright yellow concoction hot dogs are slathered in are also susceptible. Those that aren't warned off by the vivid yellow color tend to sorely regret applying the same quantities of English mustard as they would of their native blends.
- Estonian mustard, especially Põltsamaa brand. It is even stronger than the Russian mustards, which are strong enough.