You say, "Hey, that's probably not a good idea." I say, "Hold my Puffalump and watch this." Welcome, Oppo, to the gastrointestinal adventures of Stef.
Disclaimer: This has little to do with cars, aside from the fact that the aftermath of spicy food will make you drive faster for the worst reason possible. Here's a beautiful 911 for your time, which also experiences a great deal of combustion in its posterior:
I love spicy food. If there's a ghost chile option, I'm going to order it. If it's an edible item marked with warnings, disclaimers, and multiple little flames or skulls and crossbones, I'm probably going to stick it in my mouth. If there's some kind of spicy food contest, I'm probably going to accidentally walk right into it because that's what I want off the menu. I meet with a group of people to eat Nuclear Tacos every month, and every year, we make make unsuspecting tourists at SXSW cry for Mommy. I might sweat or squirm a little after eating some of the more questionable items, but you know what? I'm usually dumb enough to go for it.
Most of all, I'm pretty sure I will have no stomach lining left by the time I'm forty, but who cares? That's just extra weight, and weight makes you slow. Add lightness via naga jolokia? Yes!
The really spicy stuff goes right through, anyway. It's that mild stuff that'll stew in your intestines for days upon end. Go big or go home.
The most recent dubious dietary choice? Trying all of Torchy's "Some Like It Hot" specials in one day. Torchy's Tacos is a local chain that is aggressively expanding into nearly every empty hole of restaurant-zoned real estate throughout Texas. The tacos and queso are good, so I can't complain. They also usually feature a Taco of the Month, where some crazy fancy gringo taco is only available for that month and then *poof*, bye-bye for a good, long while.
This is August, though, which is hotter and sweatier than Satan's armpit, so Torchy's decided to feature four Tacos of the Month: one released every week, each one spicier than its predecessor.
I had almost forgotten that there were possibly weapons-grade tacos for sale this month until a friend posted a photo of him sweating quite a bit in response to the Week 4 taco. Okay, time to try out some spicy goodness, then. I fired up the Postmates delivery app to lazymode some tacos in, and tried three of the four for lunch.
Taco #1: The Barn Burner
Week 1's taco, and the least spicy of the bunch.
Contents: Grilled beef fajita, bacon, Manzano chili salad, goat cheese and cilantro, with avocado and Diablo sauce on a flour tortilla.
As tested: No bacon or avocado sauce. (What? More for you, bacon-eaters.)
This was not spicy. Not at all. Then again, the habanero-based Diablo sauce is really more like sweet, delicious liquid candy to a lunatic like me, so even doing shots of Diablo sauce from the little plastic cups couldn't make this one hot. It was yummy, though, especially with the chopped chiles and the goat cheese.
Verdict: Would recommend. Would nom again. Would order frequently if added to regular menu. Would also eat Diablo sauce like a soup.
Taco #2: Firecracker Shrimp
Week 2's taco, and also not spicy.
Contents: Habanero-battered fried shrimp, cabbage slaw, candied jalapeños, cotija cheese and cilantro with Diablo mayonnaise on a flour tortilla.
As tested: No cabbage slaw. NON-SPICY VEGETABLES ARE FOR THE WEAK.
If this had habanero grilled shrimp, I'd order it on a regular basis. The fry batter was a bit thicker than I would have liked, though. I'm also not a huge fan of fried food in general. It was still delicious, though. I'm pretty easy to please when you're putting seafood in a taco and don't overcook it like a bunch of n00b Texans.
The candied jalapeños seemed a bit out of place as well. Habanero grilled shrimp with candied jalapeños and goat cheese seems like it would have worked better, IMHO. (Mash together all the tacos!) As-is, there was that odd combo of crunchy-savory fried food with candied jalapeños that was just a bit off.
(Full disclosure: I can't stand chicken and waffles, either. Love chicken. Love waffles. Not together.)
Diablo mayonnaise is delicious, although the mayonnaise component kills off what little heat is in Diablo sauce. I don't care. I love Diablo sauce, with its slightly sweet habanero flavor and creamy, salsa doña-like (yeah, I went there in a Torchy's write-up) consistency. Mayonnaise is the nectar of the gods; the most perfect condiment to ever grace the delectable buns of my sandwiches. And fries. And chips. And spoons, stuck directly in the jar. It's good for you.
Verdict: Pretty tasty. Would order again anyway, although on second thought, I probably wouldn't if I only had room for a Mr. Orange and a breakfast taco. (Mr. Orange is my jam.)
Diablo mayonnaise, however, should be sold by the bucketful. I keep suggesting ghost chile mayonnaise to my friend who works in the food business, and I keep getting denied. Someone, please also make ghost chile mayonnaise, and somehow get me a bottle full of Diablo mayonnaise, too.
Taco #3: The Scalding Pig
Week 3's taco didn't sound all that relevant to my interests, so I skipped right to the point of all of this: the final Week 4 taco, supposedly worthy of the phrase "prepare your anus."
Contents: Pasilla and ghost chile stewed pork with escabeche, jack cheese, cilantro, sour cream and chicharron pieces, on a flour tortilla. Extra dropper filled with ghost chile sauce provided with taco.
As tested: No escabeche or sour cream. Sour cream is for the weak and escabeche is straight-up bunny food. Oh, and sour cream? For the weak. I think I said that before, but let me say it again. Sour cream is for the weak.
Why would they add sour cream to this masterpiece in the first place? It's like the taco version of an irritating press teaser shot: there's something you'd really like back there, but we're going to cover up all of it except this one random fender. Sour cream covers up other flavors by its very nature and tastes like solidified horse farts.
This taco, sans sour cream and with as much of that silly little eyedropper emptied out as possible, is a masterpiece of pain and suffering. The heavens opened up, my sinuses unclogged and beads of sweat started to form on my forehead. This—this!—was the taco I was looking for.
One of my biggest quandaries about Torchy's has always been the name. There's zero relation to The Jason (AFAIK), and nothing on the standard menu that's all that...torchy. Maybe it's hot if you're from the northwest, where Mexican cuisine goes to die?
This taco singlehandedly solved that. Thank you, Scalding Pig.
My only issue with the taco as-tasted were the chicharron pieces. I was expecting good ol' fashioned pork rinds, and hopefully the "Hot and Spicy" chicharrones that my inner redneck craves. Instead, they were lightly fried chunks of pork fat. The fry coating was a tad soft and tasted slightly nutty, almost like Chik-Fil-A's batter. I'm not a huge fan of Chik-Fil-A's, either. That peanut oil batter's just too salty. You guys and the bacon people, quit giving me that look. Quit it now. Again: more for y'all.
I'm not sure the oddly peanutty chicharron pieces went all that well with the sweet and smoky ghost chile flavor that defined the rest of the taco.
Also, the eyedropper for the sauce is a silly gimmick, and is annoyingly difficult to get a significant amount out of. Just put the sauce in a cup like all the other sauces, for 'lump's sake. The sauce was very smoky in flavor and extremely potent heat-wise. Impressive.
Overall, I could scorch my tastebuds enough to cover up the nuttiness of the chicharron coating and it was darn tasty. If you've got a bad head cold, eat this. It'll make at least your nose feel better.
Verdict: I wish this was on the permanent menu. I would order it every time I was suffering from a stuffy nose, or I just needed a more gentle version of Ex-Lax. (Don't mess around with chocolate dynamite, man. Nuclear taco fallout is far more gentle that what that stuff is capable of.)
It's delicious. The pork itself is perfect. It pees a lot out of the tottilla for a taco, but so did the time we had homemade Nuclear Pulled Pork tacos. It's a ready-made Nuclear Taco from a restaurant. Diablo sauce actually cools it down. I approve so much that I...approve.
Taco #4: The Creeper
I was a little hungry after work, so I figured, why not try all four in one day? Week 3's taco didn't initially appeal to me, but maybe it's a diamond in the rough. What could poss— rrrrrrumble—go wrong?
Contents: Habanero fried chicken, chorizo, chopped bacon, jalapeños, pickled onions, cotija cheese, cilantro on a flour tortilla with creamy ghost pepper sauce.
As tested: No bacon. (It's not a religious thing. I just ate a pork taco, guys. I just really don't like bacon. There are people who don't like bacon out there. Really.)
I'm very particular with my fried chicken, so this taco missed the mark. The chicken was a bit dry and the coating was a bit thick. I liked the habanero flavor in the coating, but both the coating and the chicken just wasn't moist or flaky enough for my liking.
The pickled onions went better with this than the candied jalapeños did with the Firecracker Shrimp taco.
I'm going to really anger the "ARE YOU SURE YOU'RE A REAL PERSON?! YOU EAT NOTHING I LIKE!" set now and admit that I genuinely loathe ranch dressing. (Exception: Chuy's creamy jalapeño dip, which is so jalapeño-y and mild on the ranch seasoning that it just tastes like winning in a cup. If you haven't noticed, I eat a lot of Tex-Mex. As in, it's a good 90% of my regular diet.)
I was hoping the creamy ghost pepper sauce would be more like a ghost pepper mayonnaise, in which case, it would be the answer to all of my hopes and dreams. Instead, it was faintly ranch-like in flavor. The pepper in it somehow tasted more like peppercorns than spicy peppers.
There was no creeping sensation of pain. There was a little tingling from the habanero/ghost chile combo, but mostly it was just extra saltiness and peppercorniness. The habanero heat was muted by its inclusion in a fatty batter and the fact that the ghost chile was in a cream sauce made it not as hot as I'd have liked as well.
(Spicy food tip: breads, fats and dairy kill heat. There's a reason why the vegetarian Nuclear Tacos are often sneakily spicy: no animal fat to absorb the heat.)
I added some Diablo sauce. That helped.
Verdict: Unless you're going for the full Ur-Painttro, I'd skip this one. Maybe that's a combo of flavors you like more than I do. Personally, I'd have rather had another Scalding Pig.
Aftermath: Once More, With Feeling
I like the phrase "vent to atmosphere." Having never owned a turbo car, I'm not well-versed in the way they work aside from "lag is quite annoying" and "boost is WHEEEEEE." I like my easily predictable naturally-aspirated powerbands. Who knows, though, I may eventually get like I've gotten with CVTs, automatics and flappy paddles. They're all nice and well, but I'm really enjoying the extra challenge of getting a shift right. Maybe someday I'll want to tackle the art of keeping a car in boost for lap after lap.
In this context, however, "vent to atmosphere" has absolutely nothing to do with keeping a Porsche 930 nose-forward and everything to do with flatulence.
If you eat all four "Some Like It Hot" tacos in one day, you're going to spend a significant amount of time using your, ahem, "blow off valve."
There's a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to extremely spicy food. If you eat enough ghost chile, it's over with fairly quickly. You suffer beforehand. The monthly Nuclear Tacos use a nice mulch of habanero and ghost chile peppers mixed in with the taco meat, providing both flavor and heat.
Look, if you're going to suffer afterwards, what you're eating might as well taste good. I won't take on any of the "hey, I found straight capsaicin!" dares. Anything that goes in my mouth needs to taste good, not just be pain for the sake of pain.
The milder tacos, however, kind of linger for a while, causing moderate abdominal discomfort. You suffer afterwards. The fried tacos make it a tad worse, just kind of chillin' out in your stomach like a heavy, fatty gut-bomb. Honestly, I think I react worse to fatty and greasy food than I do to pure heat. All I want to do afterwards is nap and poot.
This is what Torchy's meant when they said "earn the burn," right? Post-taco discomfort was mild to moderate. Laying down on my side (stomach or back is a no-go) and napping seemed to get it over with faster, but it was still that kind of lingering "I ate too many dumb things yesterday" feeling around the next day at lunchtime.
Bonus Taco: The Trashy Pig
The single best Taco of the Month ever created is only available for a couple more days? Right, then. On it. I got two more: one for a snack now and one to hoard for later.
My taco for now had one addition over my previous Scalding Pig: queso. Sure, queso is a dairy product, and therefore kills heat, but the difference between it and sour cream is that queso actually tastes good and Torchy's has some of the best queso in existence.
Yep, myth proven: a Scalding Pig ordered "trashy" (with queso) is delicious.
It was extremely spicy in spite of the extra cheese. Asking for the ghost chile sauce in little cups instead of the dropper made it much easier to coat more of the taco in something that probably doubles as a chemical weapon. This ended up being much hotter than my last Scalding Pig. (Not that I'm complaining. Doing it right!)
This was also a bit messier to eat with the queso, so I savored it a little more than I probably should have. The trick that everyone usually suggests when it comes to eating spicy food is to eat it fast.
I could taste a little more of the sauce now. It was a little chemical-like in larger amounts (a common occurrence once you get to the upper end of hot sauces) and honestly, I enjoy the flavor of the meat more than I do the flavor of the sauce. That stewed pork is a winner. I probably should've done a better job of spreading the sauce around on the meat, though.
I turned a nice shade of pink after devouring my snack. I could've doubled as one of my Puffalumps in my friendly pastel hue and zomg-too-many-tacos-I-need-to-go-to-the-gym feeling of puffiness.
"Nuclear fallout," as we taco junkies refer to it, hasn't hit from this taco yet. My stomach is still churning a bit, albeit not as much as it did yesterday right after eating the taco. Tums helped a little last night, but the fact that I had to break out the Tums in the first place proved that this taco was doing it right.
I think I'm going to have some Munchkins to try and bread-out what's left of the taco in my system and do some nice, sweaty work on the 944. Manual labor definitely helps with that whole "taco belly" sensation, too. I moved around more after ordering tacos at work than I did after dinner yesterday, which probably helped.
That other taco won't be long for this world. More pork! Yes, please.
Today is the last day of Torchy's August tacos. You should have some. Join me, and our farts shall conquer the universe.
Photo credits: Torchy's Tacos (header graphic), Brian Snelson (Ducktail 911s are love). All others are mine.