“This isn’t a meal. It’s a weapon.”

It’s been said many times that Japanese cuisine isn’t terribly spicy. Imported spicy foods like curry tend to get diluted quite a bit, and when foods have a label boasting “extreme spiciness,” it usually just means you’re in for a solid kick but nothing terribly intense.

This is a tendency known well by our reporter P.K. Sanjun. He has tackled some of Japan’s purportedly hottest foods from a curry 1,300 times spicier than normal, to Peyang’s infamously famous spicy offerings. And while some have taken him to the limits, he was still able to clean his plate every time.

So when he heard of the “Spicy Mapo Tofu of Hell” being offered by Chinese food chain Chen Mapo Dofu, he confidently decided to take it on.

This ultra-spicy take on the tofu, meat, and rice dish mapo tofu, is a part of the “Infinite Chen Mapo Dofu Fairrunning from 3 April to 31 May.

As a part of this celebration, a range of four Spicy Mapo Tofu of Hell are offered with varying levels of spiciness. Customers who can eat the entire bowl will be rewarded with a number of coupons for free bowls depending on the level.

▼ The promotion’s mascot is a particularly wrathful looking chef

The intimidating woman had little effect on the confidence in P.K. and he ordered the highest level bowl without hesitation. The advertisement for this mapo tofu said that no one had been able to finish the whole thing, but when P.K. asked the staff he was told that two people had managed it since that was written.

By the way, P.K. doesn’t actually like spicy food all that much, but he does have a high tolerance for pain. This allows him to endure the superficial sting of capsaicin much more than his peers. Moreover, at the end of the day, these “deadly” dishes are still intended to be enjoyable to some degree, so they never push our writer’s tolerance beyond its limits.

That’s why P.K. continued to feel certain that this so-called “Mapo Tofu of Hell” would be a walk in the par…

This wasn’t so much a bowl of mapo tofu, but a bowl of chili peppers topped with piles of ground spices. There might have been some tofu in there but it was hard to tell.

It made P.K. think about the price for a moment. This bowl was 1,860 yen (US$17) whereas a regular mapo tofu costs 1,360 yen ($12.40). That would mean that there is about 500 yen ($4.60) worth of spicy ingredients in addition to all the usual ones.

▼ For comparison Spicy Mapo Tofu of Hell (left) regular mapo tofu (right)

And despite all this, P.K. still felt he could devour the whole thing without incident. He realized he had his work cut out for him this time, but rose to the challenge and psyched himself up by shouting, “Doesn’t this look good!” and “Yessir, this guy better be afraid of me!”

▼ “…”

▼ “Aw… I can’t do this.

Needless to say, “spicy” was an understatement. For just a flash he could detect the numbing sensation of Japanese pepper along with the classic burn of chili pepper, but after that the spoonful unleashed a wave of pain that was impossible to diagnose.

It was like getting poked in the eye, kicked in the crotch, stung by a bee, punched in the throat, and a leg waxing  all at the same time, then trying to figure out which one hurt the worst. At a certain point it all just stopped mattering.

The burn was so much that P.K. could actually track the food’s passage down to his stomach with meticulous detail. He tried to rationalize to himself that this was nothing more than signals being sent through his nervous system and not indicative of any actual damage to his body.

He also tried to dilute the offensive food with his side of rice, but his tongue was so overloaded at that point the sweet grains didn’t even register.

It was then that P.K. had to make a choice. He could finish this bowl, but to do so he would have to employ the ancient, forbidden eating techniques. These could lead to severe psychological damage from which he might never return.

It simply wasn’t worth the five coupons.

“This isn’t a meal. It’s a weapon.”

For the first time ever, P.K. had been beaten by a spicy dish. The photographer for this assignment, Ikuna Kamezawa, who’s also fairly accustomed to spicy food decided to try some of the leftovers.

It was good to have confirmation, but at this point P.K. was more interesting in putting out the fire that continued to consume his body. He rushed to find the nearest yogurt vendor who, if they were smart, should strongly consider jacking up their prices, because at that moment P.K. would have been willing to shell out thousands of yen for some.

It was a brief respite, but as anyone whose consumed really spicy food knows, his battle was only half over at that point. The meal still needed to complete its journey through his digestive system with all the intensity of that scowling chef on the poster.

If you’d like to experience this for yourself, then head on down to a participating Chen Mapo Dofu near you before this meal returns home through the gates of hell on 31 May!

Restaurant information
Chen Mapo Dofu (Shinjuku Normura Bldg.) / 陳麻婆豆腐 新宿野村ビル店
Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishishinjuku 1-26-2, Shinjuku Normura Bldg. B2
東京都新宿区西新宿1丁目26-2 新宿野村ビルB2
Hours: 11a.m. – 3p.m. / 5p.m. – 11p.m. (Last order at 10p.m.)

Photos: ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]