The heat is on
We were brave enough to take on the finish-spicy-ramen-bowl-in-12-minutes challenge ongoing at a Bandra eatery and here is how it went
It's a good thing that Bandra's Heng Bok is completely empty when I walk in around 12.30 pm on a Monday to take part in the Korean eatery's Spicy Ramen Challenge. There will be no one to witness it in case my effort ends in abject humiliation. The rules are simple — finish a portion of ramen meant for two people on your own in 12 minutes to win a Rs 5,000 voucher. The manager does warn that the dish has been made extra spicy for the purpose of this challenge. But I tell myself, "Pshaw, what harm can that do to someone who tells pani puri wallahs, 'Sirf teekha dena'? This won't be a big deal. Bring it on!"
Eating like a pig
That sense of confidence is heightened further when the dish arrives. There are two options available for participants — veg and non-veg. It makes more sense to opt for the veg version considering it's a lighter meal. But such is the brashness with which I approach the task at hand that I ask for the one with pork after being goaded by a colleague accompanying me, so what if the fatty meat makes the dish heavier? In fact, it doesn't look like much when it's finally served. Sure, it's a big portion. But having strategically skipped breakfast, I'm so hungry that I could eat a horse. So I ask for the clock to be started and pick up a fork with the assurance of a cricketer facing a part-time bowler while batting on 99, ditching chopsticks despite a certain level of proficiency since it would only slow me down.
Brimming with confidence to begin with
The first few mouthfuls are innocuous enough. The dish is indeed spicy, but its full extent isn't evident yet. I had expected a soupy ramen bowl and am relieved that it's dry instead, since the broth content would have possibly filled my stomach up faster. So, I breeze through the first four minutes so easily that the manager is compelled to say, "It looks like you'll win the challenge." I simply nod in agreement, though under my breath I say, "You bet I will, so better keep that voucher ready. Mwahahaha!"
Wolfing down the initial mouthfuls
But then things start going downhill after the five-minute mark. That's when the rumbling in my stomach starts. The fiery Korean spices in the ramen start acting up like a sleeping monster that's just woken up ready for its next kill. I ignore it at first, though my initial lion-like confidence is more kitten-like by now. I also can't discount the volcano that's threatening to erupt in my belly and take a sip of cola that leads to a timely burp (which is let out without inhibition because who cares about table manners when there's a prize to be won?). A few more forkfuls and beads of sweat erupt on my forehead even as I develop a dripping nose. The heartless colleague starts laughing at my predicament without realising that taking up this challenge has turned into a real health hazard. "Someone should make a meme of you with smoke coming out of your ears," she says while I silently curse her. And finally, I throw in the towel at the 9.5-minute mark since a Rs 5,000 voucher won't help pay my hospital bill, which is where I'd be heading if I carried on any longer.
The confidence slipping away
Later, the chef reveals that he made this dish with a packet of ready-made ramen that includes a pouch of spices labelled "2X" to indicate the heat quotient. He adds that he put in half a pouch extra to make the challenge more difficult. No wonder, then, that I capitulated despite a high tolerance for spicy food. And even though the restaurant serves a thoughtful scoop of ice cream before the bill is paid, it does nothing to sweeten the bitter taste of defeat as I make my way out.
Throwing in the towel
At: Suburbia Mall, Linking Road, Bandra West.
Till: September 12, 12.30 pm to 11.45 pm
Cost: Rs 1,499
Heng Bok didn't know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals
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