Monday, May 25, 2015

A Million SHU Fast Food? Really?

Weighing in at more than 1 million Scoville heat units (SHUs)* the hottest chili in the world is Bhut Jolokia, or Ghost Pepper.  To put that value into perspective, Poblano Peppers rate between 1,000 & 1,500 SHUs**, Sriracha Sauce is 2,200 SHUs**, Original Tobasco Sauce is 2,500 SHUs**, Cholula Sauce (my favorite hot sauce) chimes in at 3,600 SHUs**, the popular Jalapeño Pepper delivers from 2,500 to 8,000 SHUs**, and Dave's Insanity Sauce weighs in at a whopping 180,000 SHUs**.

Eating these peppers has been known to cause chemical burns in the mouth and throat, burning eyes, heavy sweats, heart palpitations, and labored breathing.  Some eaters have been hospitalized.  Restaurants and bars which offer Ghost Pepper seasoned dishes, such as, Sliders Sports Bar in Southington Ct., make patrons sign a medical waiver before serving their such dishes***.

Despite the reports of danger, or perhaps because of such reports, fast food and casual chain restaurants have begun offering Ghost Pepper laced dishes, including:
  • Jack’s Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich from Jack in the Box: spicy chicken fillet topped with Ghost Pepper Ranch sauce, grilled onions, spicy jalapeños, Swiss-style cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, all on a jumbo bun,
  • Fiery Ghost Style Burger from Red Robin: a pub style burger topped with a ghost pepper sauce, fresh sliced jalapeños, sliced deep fried jalapeños, and pepper jack cheese,
  • Ghost Pepper Wings from Popeyes: marinated in an “exotic blend of peppers,” including ghost peppers, for 12 hours before being battered, breaded, and deep fried,
  • Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy's: natural-cut fries topped with fresh diced jalapeños, ghost pepper sauce, and warm Cheddar cheese sauce.
I don't know about anyone else, but I haven't seen any news reports of fast food patrons being rushed to emergency rooms with chemical burns and breathing problems.  The lack of such reports made me skeptical that these mass produced offerings are actually Ghost Pepper level spicy.

The addition of jalapeños to most of these dishes increased my skepticism.  If a dish is Ghost Pepper level spicy, the addition of additional hot peppers would be unnoticeably redundant.

Thus, I figured the dishes in question have had loads of mayonnaise added to them in order to mellow them down into safer versions of what they claim to be, much like fast food places do with their "Sriracha" flavored fair.
Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendys
Subject: Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy's | Date: 05/20/15 |
Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell | This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |

Not willing to purchase every Ghost Pepper labeled dish on the market, I chose to try the Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy's to test my theory.

I should begin by giving kudos to Wendy's for using fresh jalapeños to top their fries.  That alone tells me that Wendy's is trying to make these fries a quality product.

That being said, the big question is, how do they taste?  As suspected, the "Ghost Pepper sauce" was cut with enough mayo to tame it down to Tobasco Sauce level heat.  That's not a bad thing though.  The sauce provided enough spice to make it fun to eat, but it wasn't so overpowering that it blocked the flavors of salt, cheese, and peppers.  All the flavors worked together, making it a well balanced snack.

All things considered, I give Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy's 8 out of 10 stars.  I'd eat them, in place of nachos, while watching sports on TV.  However, if you're going to take them home to eat them you should live fairly close to Wendy's, or be able to drive home fast (James Kiester does not recommend or condone the breaking of speed, and/or other traffic laws).  The presence of two sauces will make the fries soggy relatively quickly.

While I haven't eaten all the mass produced Ghost Pepper laced dishes on the market, I strongly suspect that, like these fries, said dishes are spicy, but not insanely so.

*= Wikipedia
**= Scoville Scale found on The Official Scott Roberts Website

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