chili pepper battles and Delhi street cuisine

The Guinness World Records has decided that Bhut Jolokia, a chili pepper native to Assam, is the hottest pepper in the world. Here’s a CNN.com story about it.
So the article makes a reference to the professor in New Mexico who “discovered” the hottest chili pepper in the world. I’m going to nitpick here, but surely the people of Assam who’ve been eating this chili forever discovered it? The good professor did identify it as the hottest chili in the world, but that’s not the same as discovery. Poor choice of words.
But more on the pepper. An Assamese woman is going to fly to London, to the Guinness headquarters, to see how many of these chilies she can eat at one go. Apparently the previous record is eight jalapeños in one minute. She thinks she can eat more. I wish her well.
I’m not big on very spicy things myself, having a low tolerance for chili. But I can certainly eat more than is in most food here. When I order food, I almost always have to add, at the very least, salt.
And it seems to me (though I might be imagining it) that even the salt here is milder than Indian salt. I feel like I use a lot more salt here than I do in India.
Food habits are sure strange. They’re strong aspects of culture. When I think about home, for example, I think about the food a lot, too. I admit, I love my food, and this might be slightly skewed, but I miss more about home than the people there. I miss the sights and sounds and smells (the good ones, not the smelly smells!)…and I really miss the street food in Delhi. Gol gappas and chaat and chole-bhature
The best chole-bhature I ever ate was at Chacha’s in DU. There were some years of good eating. Tibetan market momos, for one. Thukpa. Nimbu chai under the tree in D’School. The frightful lunches at the D’School canteen that I ate for years.
Now when I go back, I have the delicate NRI stomach. No more eating rediwalla food for me. But when I go back for my fieldwork, I will revisit all my old food hangouts. Some memories simply have to be relived. You can’t go to Delhi and not eat everywhere. So…to eat the paranthas in Paranthewali Gali, some kulfi-falooda in Bengali Market, chaat in Sundar Nagar…I look forward to home food, and that’s not just my mom’s cooking (though that’s pretty spectacular, let me tell you).
Here’s to Dilli ka khana; may I always have the stomach for it.

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