Author: Claire Diggins
It is Thursday morning. I read a text from my friend saying, “The thing that I said never happened to me after eating spicy food just occurred.” My friend is Sam Dalsheimer (junior), and the thing he is referring to is a very unsavory ramification of ingesting excessively spicy food. It’s not just painful on the way in, if you know what I mean. Well, maybe you don’t know what I mean, so I’ll take you back to last Wednesday night to explain.
It might have seemed like an ordinary Wednesday night, but last Wednesday, Feb. 16, was a night that will live on in eternal infamy. It was on this night that Samuel Kenneth Dalsheimer, 5’8″, 148 pounds, accepted the spicy Fire Chicken Challenge at Crazy Hook restaurant. To participate in the challenge, Dalsheimer, hereafter the Contender, and his followers travelled to Korea Town to a pirate-themed bar called Crazy Hook.
Only Crazy Hook serves the spiciest chicken a pirate-themed bar has or will ever serve, and it is this chicken that the Contender was charged to eat. We traveled the eight miles to Crazy Hook in the Contender’s four-door sedan, trekking southward through Silver Lake and MacArthur Park. The car was filled with anticipation. When asked how he felt about the upcoming gastronomic challenge, the Contender answered boldly, “Right now, I’m focused on driving. As for the food, let’s cross that bridge when we get there. That’s how I live my life.”
We rode on into the night. The silence weighed on the Contender. Somewhere between the Two freeway and Sunset Boulevard, he expressed his anxiety. “I am under a lot of pressure,” he stated. We continued to drive in silence. As we neared our destination, I noticed a sign for El Pollo Loco that boasted, “Real Fire, Real Chicken.” I laughed, knowing their chicken was meant for the weak and faint of heart. I set my eyes forward, in anticipation of the Contender’s upcoming fire chicken battle.
Finally we arrived at the Crazy Hook. We found free parking less than a block from the bar, a good omen, I thought. The Contender said, “I feel good. I’m excited to eat this food.” We turned the corner and saw the neon Crazy Hook sign. Upon entering we were enveloped in pirate-themed glory.
A life-size pirate captain statue greeted us at the door, along with two human servers. One of the servers showed us to a large wooden booth. The bar, the tables, the floors and part of the walls were are all made of wood. The rest of the walls were murals of shipwrecks and lonesome pirates lost at sea. White sails swathed the ceiling, and lanterns and fishnets bedecked the booths. It was truly as if we had stepped back in time and were out on the open sea, the salty air filling our lungs. Except, of course, for the loud Korean pop music in the background.
The server left us with menus and we all flipped them open, eager to read the description of the fire chicken. Most of the menu was in Korean though, so all we understood was the image of three chili peppers. This image spoke volumes, as the fire chicken was the only item on the menu owning the three-pepper adornment. The menu itself ranged from kimchi to loaded potato skins and was an interesting mix of fried bar food and authentic Korean fare. As it was happy hour (half-off all food items from 5-9 p.m.), we ordered an appetizer of shrimp spring rolls and entrées.
When someone ordered the chicken with a one-pepper icon, the server said, “It’s very spicy, do you know that?” Ha, we all thought, and informed him that the Contender, of course, would be ordering the Fire Chicken. Our server grew quiet, realizing he was in the presence of a valiant diner, and left to take our order back to the kitchen. Before our meal came, we ate complimentary fried wontons dusted with sugar, along with sweet pickled cucumbers and jícama. Our meals came out quickly and we all watched reverentially as the server laid a giant cast iron skillet of the spicy fire-red chicken in front of the Contender.
All eyes on him, the Contender took his first bite. He chewed. He swallowed. He looked around, his face calm. Reddened skin and tearing eyes soon invaded his cool face. It took a moment for the heat of the dish to hit him, but, sure enough, it did. The Contender continued to eat the meal, full of fried chicken, garlic cloves, onions, peppers, carrots and lots of heat. I had to know the heat level he was dealing with, so I tried the sauce. It was all right at first, but slowly, my throat began to burn. It tasted as though I’d poured a container of cayenne pepper down my throat, and it took many minutes before my mouth healed. The Contender, meanwhile, continued his quest to finish the plate. “I’m going to do it,” he said, his face stoic.
The brave girl who ordered the one-pepper chicken, though, was bogging down. Her mouth was on fire and, less than halfway in, she declared she needed a break. “I have a headache,” she said. She never did finish the meal.
Everyone had either finished or admitted defeat, but the Contender’s battle waged on as he silently conquered the fire chicken monster. With all eyes on him, there was no way this man was going to give up. And he didn’t. He ate that fire chicken down to the last tear-inducing bite. The Crazy Hook didn’t even know what it had coming that night. Samuel K. Dalsheimer, the Contender, proved himself an ultimate food warrior on Wednesday, Feb. 16, when he accepted and won the Crazy Horse fire chicken challenge.
Physically, though, our Contender did not feel so victorious. Not even my neutralizing cream-based pasta sauce could soothe his mouth after the fire chicken overload. He said it took about 10 or 15 minutes for his mouth to recover, but the pain was only transferred to his stomach. While digesting he said, “I feel like the taste is in my stomach, and it burns. This is going to hurt on the way out. I’ve heard of that happening, but I’ve never experienced it.” Sure enough, as my Thursday morning text revealed, it did hurt on the way out.
But the pain is well worth the glory that the Contender earned that night. Unfortunately the fire chicken challenge at the Crazy Hook doesn’t involve a prize or generate a huge crowd, or even merit a picture on the wall, but this Contender’s bravery will live in our hearts and minds forever.
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