I love spicy food – it makes me feel alive. Some people enjoy jumping out of perfectly good aeroplanes, while others climb towering peaks because they are there. I, on the other hand, quite like sitting in front of the telly with a blisteringly hot curry.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a macho thing – we’ve all seen that guy in the curry house blindly ordering the hottest thing on the menu to impress a pack of chuntering mates, only to turn maroon and have a little cry after a couple of mouthfuls of phaal. But I must stress that I go to great pains not to be That Guy.
If you ever go to Cardiff’s superlative New York Deli and order one of their colossal Cardiff Devil Hoagies (you really should, by the way) you’ll be asked how much Tabasco sauce you’d like on a scale of 1 to 10. After almost 15 years of eating there man and boy, I still can’t bring myself to ask for a ‘10’ for fear of looking like an absolute tube.
I just really, sincerely love hot food. So what’s a spice lover to do to get their fix of fire without the embarrassment of feeling like a show-off? If only there was a readily available alternative that could be purchased anonymously as part of your weekly shop…
Enter Morrison’s and their Volcanic Vindaloo, which they claim is the hottest supermarket curry available in the UK.
I know what you’re thinking. This is going to be another of those milquetoast supermarket attempts at spicy food with massive chilli peppers, flames and warning labels plastered all over the packaging that actually has all the oomph of a tin of chicken soup.
But there’s been a lot of talk online that this one is the real deal. Mostly from every local paper in the UK who realised that they could fill a page for the price of a ready meal. While a quality publication like The Mouthful would never resort to such sordid tactics, I felt it my personal duty to investigate.
The Volcanic Vindaloo seems fairly harmless at first glance; strip away the packaging and it looks like your standard supermarket curry – until you spot the whole green chillies lurking below the surface like sea serpents on an antique map. Here be dragons.
So much for appearances – how does it taste?
I’d love to say that I wolfed it down, wiped my mouth on my sleeve and growled “That all ya got pardner?” like John Wayne. I did not. Because it was pretty fucking hot, you guys.
The first couple of forkfuls are enjoyable enough; it’s got that deep, dark, peppery flavour common to the hotter end of the curry spectrum. Not great – a bit bitter, but ok.
The initial kick is decent, but hardly the distilled xenomorph blood that I’d been lead to expect. Respectable, but far from the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten.
Things get a bit more serious around half way through though. The Sweat begins, and my nose starts pouring. An insidious, building heat sneaks up behind my tongue then smacks it with a red-hot poker. By the time I’ve endured the fourth whole green chilli I have to confess to rethinking some of my life choices and feeling a bit like that dickhead in the curry house from the second paragraph.
But then the heat plateaus, and soon I’m happily mopping up the final blobs of sauce with my naan. Oddly there’s no lingering burn afterward, though my sinuses spend the next ten minutes behaving as though I’ve been huffing Airfix model glue from an old sock.
In the same way that every astronaut is asked how they go to the loo in space, you are no doubt wondering about the… after effects. It’s early days – about three hours since my last mouthful – but nothing untoward has happened yet. That said, my stomach has spent the afternoon producing sounds that can only be described as ‘mournful whale-song’. I’m sure it’ll be fine.
So is the Volcanic Vindaloo the answer to a chilli-addict’s prayers? Sort of. It’s bloody hot, but that’s about all it is. A look at the ingredients might explain why – most of the heat here comes from naga extract rather than real peppers. Any chilli-head worth their salt will tell you that this is a sure-fire way to add heat without really capturing flavour.
It’ll do in a pinch, but if you’re a true spice lover you’d be better off getting a decent curry from your local takeaway – chances are that’ll taste nice as well as melting your face.
Now, has anyone got any Rennies?