Elwood 5566

And Koreans Think They're Hot!

Posted in Comparative by 노강호 on October 23, 2010


the hottest Korean chillies, the ch'eong-ryang chilli (청량고추)

I’ve always been a chilli-head and enjoyed trying the different chillies that have come my way. I often find it amusing that Koreans assume a westerner will find Korean food too hot where if anything, personally, I find it too mild. In Great Britain, an acquaintance with very hot food is something many of us have experienced, thanks to Indian and Thai restaurants.



Take the famous vindaloo, a curry from Goa, India, which uses malt vinegar, potato and is probably the hottest, widely available curry in the UK. A ‘tindaloo‘ is occasionally on Indian restaurant menus but this is probably either a vindaloo spiced-up with Scots bonnet, habanero or naga chillies, all among the hottest of all chillies available or an equally, very hot curry from Bangladesh. The hottest curry likely to be found in a curry house, is a ‘phall‘ though this does not appear on menus as regularly as a vindaloo. A decent vindaloo will start your nose running and produces an after burn which when you next go to the toilet, can be quite painful.

Scots Bonnets in various stages of ripeness and potency

Scots bonnets and habaneros, which are related and similar in appearance, share a score on the Scoville Scale of between 100.000-350.000. Until recently, these chillies were often cited as the world’s hottest but several other chillies, cross breeds, now hold this honour. The Guinness Book of Records recorded the Naga Jolokia, (or Bhut Jolokia) chilli, from Bangladesh and Assam, as the hottest ever recorded, in 2007, reaching 1,041,427 on the Scoville Scale. However, the Jolokia is about to be knocked off its perch by the recent appearance of the ‘Infinity chilli,’  bred in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, by Nick Wood.


Jolokia, over a million on the Scoville Heat Scale

Nick Woods, breeder of the 'Infinity Chilli'

So, let’s put this in context; a bell pepper rates 0. SHU (Scoville Heat Units), while a Jalapeno scores between 2.500-8.000 SHU. Most people rate the Jalapeno as the first of the ‘hot’ chillies and it used as a bench mark against which to rate other varieties. For example, Tabasco Original Hot Sauce, is 50% the heat of a Jalapeno, making it very mild, and scoring 2.500 SHU. The habanero scores 100.00-350.000 and is around 70 times hotter than the jalapeno. I’ve seen a friend weep in agony after he chopped a habanero and then rubbed  his eyes. With a Scoville Heat Unit of 1,041,427, the Bhut/Naga Jokolia is 208.29 times hotter than the jalapeno and 400 times hotter than Tabasco Original Hot Sauce – which by now, is as mild as milk.

Scoville scores over  one million takes us into the realms of atomic chillies and while their  raw culinary use begins to wane, their potential in sauces and as paint stripper, increases. The ‘Infinity chilli’ scores 1,176,182 SHU putting it around 100.000 units beyond the Jokolia. Anything hotter can no only be bought as a sauce  or more likely as a food additive or pure capsaicin crystals. The heat however, is still on the rise!

Scott Roberts, a Missouri based chilihead has compiled an extensive list of sauces and chillies listing their Scoville ratings and comparisons with the jalapeno.  He lists many ‘sauces’ exceeding a million Scoville units  and includes, purely for interest, police pepper spray which scores between 3 and 5 million SHU, 1000 times hotter than a jalapeno. And just to give you a taste of  how hot, ‘hot’ can get:  at  6 million, Crazy Uncle Jester’s The Jester Sauce,  1200 times hotter than a Jalapeno and about the same as the British made, Dragon’s Blood sauce, made from the Naga Jolokia.


6.4 million SHU

Many of the highest rated ‘sauces,’ increasingly pure capsaicin suspended in oil or, in unadulterated crystal form, are collectors items, numbered and signed and in limited editions. The products are potentially dangerous and need careful handling.  ‘Blair,’ a New Jersey based company, is probably one of the most rated for its line of connoisseur, high SHU scoring sauces many of which are collector’s items.


Founded by Blair Lazar

Blair’s 2007 Halloween Reserve, at 13.5 million SHU and 2700 stronger than a jalapeno, sold out within six hours of going on the company’s website. The 2009 Reserve was selling at $300 a bottle and apart from the fiery content, the bottle was a hand blown pumpkin.


2700 times hotter than a jalapeno and at $300 a bottle.

At the top of the list, Blair’s 16 Million Reserve; pure capsaicin at 16 million SHU and 3200 times hotter than a jalapeno. On the, Scott Roberts website, Scott quotes:

“Blair’s 16 Million Reserve is the latest in the line of reserves from Blair. This reserve bottle contains 1ml of pure capsaicin crystals. 16 Million Reserve is not to be consumed or even opened without using extreme caution. Only 999 of Blair’s 16 Million will be produced, so get yours quick!”

And where do Korean chillies rate, I hear you ask? Well, despite copious searching, I can find no Scoville scores for the chillies you would usually buy in Korea. Certainly, the ‘cucumber chilli’ (오이고추) would rate only marginally above a bell pepper, at around 100-1000 SHU. The standard green chilli used in Korea probably rates between a Serrano (10.000-23.000 SHU and about 4.6 times hotter than a jalapeno) and the Thai pepper (50000-100.000 SHU). The hottest Korean chilli is the ch’eong-ryang chilli (청량고추), which I would estimate to be approximately between that of a hot Thai pepper and the bird’s-eye chilli (100.00-225.000 SHU and around 45 times hotter than a jalapeno). Certainly, Korean chillies fall substantially lower in heat than the habanero type chilli.

Some Chilli Facts

In Mexico chilli juice was used to wean a baby off the nipple.

If your mouth is on fire, water or beer will only temporarily cool your mouth. The best aid is milk as even a minimal amount of oil is enough to coast the lining of the mouth and reduce the burning sensation.

If you like the taste of chillies rather than the heat, oily or creamy based food will reduce the heat of chilli and allow the flavour to come through. Carbonara with chilli is fairly common in Korea and you can easily jack-up the chilli content to levels that would scorch your mouth in other, less oily or creamy, Korean foods.

Removing seeds from chillies will reduce their heat.

And finally,  to finish with:


Lindt; a superior brand of chocolate. The chilli really works!

Chilli Related Sites

Blair’s (USA)

Scorchio (UK)

The Hot Zone (USA) Excellent chilli related blog.

UK Chile Farm  (UK) suppliers of Wet Fart Chilli Sauce and Ass in the Tub Chilli Sauce.


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© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.


Ear Piece Mania

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Entertainment by 노강호 on July 19, 2010

Have you noticed that it seems a trendy, usually in western style restaurants, to equip your staff with radio earpieces. I often eat in a couple of places where the CIA and Personal Protection Services collide and fully expect to see staff with the barrel of a revolver poking from the waistband. It would be understandable if there were only a few members of staff per restaurant, but  in Korea it’s customer service overload.

Two of the restaurants I frequent involve parking in a supermarket where I am always amused by the directions provided to vacant parking. First, there is the manic series of Power Ranger poses that alert you to the fact you have to turn left to enter the parking facilities. Of course, directions are adequately posted on both the tarmac itself and on street signs and you can hardly miss the building; it’s five stories high! Korean drivers have a reputation for multi-tasking, mobile phone in one hand, sandwich in the other; so I guess the Power Ranger routine grabs the attention of even the most inattentive driver. And  next, once in the car park building, you can enjoy being mesmerized by the glitzy-glamour gals and their sequined stetsons that stand to attention on the apex of every corner and provide you a selection of semi-sexual hand gestures. My favourite is the direction to, ‘dim your head lamps,’ which looks like sign-language for, ‘it’s snowing.’ Performing this motion for several hours a day would drive you potty, unless of course you’d dropped an acid tab which in tandem with the glitzy-gloves, would be an exhilarating experience. Simply parking the car has been facilitated by 10 student staff, and that was only as far as the first level, but  no one’s complaining when an hour’s wages are just enough to buy you a coffee and bun.

The Power Range Poses for directing traffic to parking lot

In the restaurant, another batch of students are re-enacting Men in Black. It’s early lunchtime and despite the fact there are only three customers, there are nine waiters each adorned with an ear-piece! I remember when CB radio was a fad and it was common to listen ‘into’ police radios, for fun. I wonder if you can listen ‘into’ restaurant radios because I’d love to know what instructions are transmitted. Do individual waiters have a ‘handle?’ Do they follow standard radio protocol?

Han Man One calling Waiter Number 10, take order from table number 5. Over.

Han Man One calling Waiter number 6, deliver steak and banana jam, with portion of kimchi and pickle, to table 5. Over.

The radios remind me of a Burger King restaurant in Osnabruck, Germany, which installed radios where you made you order. Staff had to speak your order into the radio which then broadcast it to the staff ‘cooking.’  Not a bad idea except the staff doing the ‘cooking’ were less than a meter from the staff collecting the order, and sometimes the staff ordering would turn about and become the staff ‘cooking.’ It seems nothing could be done without speaking first into the radio-loud speaker contraption. Worse, the sound the radio produced, perhaps because of the proximity, was muffled and incomprehensible and so, ‘Whopper,’ sounded like, ‘wowa.’

Maybe the ear pieces transmit calming music to anesthetize staff when there are no customers or when staff outnumber  them. Maybe they’re totally dead, simply window-dressing, because I never seen any staff directing waiters. I’d sure like to have a whirl on them, secretly – and if of course, I could speak Korean. One of the places I eat has the most handsome waiter and I’d love to say a few things directly into his ear-hole.  Unfortunately, though the restaurant serves a rather delicious sausage, amusingly called ‘sausage on the bone’ as it has a spare rib painfully protruding from one end, the only sausage I want is not on the menu!

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

New York, New York

Posted in Daegu, Entertainment by 노강호 on July 4, 2010

New York, New York, is a franchise restaurant  where the menu differs substantially between one restaurant and another.  Currently, New York, New York, Song-So, Daegu, is my favourite western style restaurant and it does an excellent pork steak topped with pineapple and blueberry sauce, and one half of a delicious, almost roast potato.  I think it’s probably pan-fried but it comes close to roast. Since getting pally with the owner I now get 1 whole roast potato. And, the Korean fried rice (벅금밥) compliments the pork chop and blue berry very well. Yes’ it’s still ‘pusion pood’ (fusion food) but only just. The meal is usually served with kimchi and pickles but as these appear on a side dish, if you push them to one side, you can almost imagine  you’re back home. If the ‘pusion’ element doesn’t bother you, you can try the Korean rice wine (막갈리) cocktail, 4000W (£2) and served with strawberry and pineapple.

Ground floor

From my experience, apart from a burger bar, New York, New York is the only restaurant I’ve eaten in which doesn’t provide chopsticks. Eating kimchi with a fork is weird, like something out of The Twilightzone. The ambiance is great, if not a little fake, with plastic geraniums but the extensive wine racks contain wine, the lighting is suitably subdued and as always the army of staff are attentive and generous. Considering the price, around 8000W (£4), for a very nice meal, a few plastic geraniums don’t bother  me and I console myself with the fact they are actually in  bloom. This  week a waiter asked if I had any requests for the sound system. Ah, the music!  Why is it that places with tasteful interiors go and ruin them by splurging shit music into the air. A rap version of, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, was slowly beginning to irritate me. The choice of music can be a little variable and  swing from rap crap to Mozart and Sinatra, in an instant. Overall, the atmosphere certainly suits Sinatra. Then, on the window ledges are real branches of wood, standing in large glass vases filled with chunks of cookie and cream-looking rock and topped with water. The plastic plants are the sort that are realistic enough to provoke both conversation and  are difficult to distinguish as fake , especially with real branches. Last week I noticed the branches had all sprouted leaves and yet still had plastic botanical Borg implants. Quite bizarre.

Bizarre Borg technology – plant plastic pushion

New York New York, Song-So is a few minutes walk from the Song-So Industrial Complex subway station. Go  past E-Marte, turn right at the end of E-Marte on the crossroad, and it’s on your left half way up the hill and equidistant between Migwang Sporlex , on the crest of the hill, and E-Marte, on the cross-road. (Wiki Map Link) THIS CLOSED DOWN IN JUNE 2011!

Conversely, for some spacious swank, try the New York, New York, (Wedding) at Susong-gu, Daegu.

Susong-gu – swanky


A monk (수님)

Beautifully designed

Water feature

The restaurant is very large

Entrance fountain

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

The Song So ‘New York, New York’, closed in 2011

Song-So in Transition

Posted in Daegu, Diary notes, Westerners by 노강호 on June 19, 2010

E-bente-tang (이벤트탕)

In the Ebente Tang (이벤트 탕) today the additional essence was pine (솔입). It was slightly busier than usual for a lunch-time and I got talking to the westerner who isn’t afraid to bend over. It’s actually the first time I have sat with a westerner, naked in a bathhouse, since I visited Korea a few years ago with a friend. I passed another westerner on the way in;  I was taking my shoes off as he was putting his own. He didn’t want to talk, I could tell, and he was a dirty looking backpacker type with grungy looking clothes and a month’s stubble. I almost  let him escape then said, ‘hello,’ after which he had to exchange some conversation with me. I’ve not really seen him around before but of course, he’s lived here for a few years, which means probably 13 months.

I’ve had a few drinks. This evening, as I left work, I felt like a stroll down to where my old school  used to be which involves crossing a large cross-road near the Lotte Cinema. I  hardly ever go Keimyung University side unless I want some Baskin Robbins ice cream.  The cross-road forms a barrier, an asteroid belt between my realm, a few blocks, and what is basically another universe. I usually experience a sense of adventure as  I cross it and begin journeying where I haven’t been before.  Of course, I probably have been in this location before but the transformation of the buildings and businesses occupying it generally make me feel passing them is a first encounter.   I’d started the journey from my bank and half way towards my old school, as it starts to rain, I realise my umbrella is in the bank foyer. It’s pointless turning back and beside, this is Korea and the chances are very high it will be there when I return.

Song-So in 2000 from the top of E-Marte. This area still had patches of farmland all since developed

2010. Same location

The businesses towards my old school, a hideous factory in which I worked for 18 months, have changed. KFC has gone – the first pace I ate on my own in Korea, so too has Lotteria burger bar where I’d hang out in the most humid part of summer because contracts back then didn’t include air conditioning, and where a bedding shop used to be I’m treated to a reminder of life back home  in the form of a Tesco’s Home Plus. Not content to have invaded every corner of England, they are now starting to terminate all small businesses in Korea. My old school is no longer Di Dim Dol but some other school, still run by a money grabbing businessman boss. On the huge poster on the third floor,  some round-eyed western kiddy stares out at Korea, pen in hand, looking studious. Of course, the truth is most western kids couldn’t give a fuck about English and the native language skills of both Britain and the USA fall behind that of Korea, which for all its faults, has one of the most successful education systems in the world. My old Taekwondo Academy has gone and so too has the Pizzaland underneath it.

This entire stretch of road used to be the most affluent part of Song-So but since a mega cinema complex, known as Mega Town, was built some 6 years ago, opposite where I currently live, the money has moved into the next block. It was an obvious transition; near the Cinema is the E-Marte supermarket and surrounding it are buffet restaurants, pizza restaurants, coffee shops and a Dunkin Donut. Further down the road towards the university, the area in which my old school used to be the atmosphere is  now slightly shabby and deserted. When I cross the large crossroads and venture into the unknown I often feel guilty of being lazy but nowadays I just remind myself I rarely come here as there isn’t really much to see.

Sea squirt (멍개)

I end up eating dinner in an Oyster restaurant where I know the owner. It’s one of the hardiest local businesses. The first thing he says to me is that I have put on weight when indeed I have lost it. Not a good start to the evening especially as my favourite food here was oyster tempura. Ten years ago this restaurant was a North Korean restaurant  and was where I regularly used to meet my friend Cherie, currently my boss after she quit Di Dim Dol Factory School. The owner is really pleased to see me and wanting an excuse to drink, plies me with plenty of ‘service’ in the form of beer, makkalli, sea squirt, and sliced jellyfish.

If you’ve ever wanted to know what its like to eat a boil, Sea Squirt (멍개) is a close approximation. I’ve eaten them before and never found them delicious. Sliced jellyfish (햅아리) however, I like especially if in a sauce. The specialty in this establishment is oyster. My home town in the UK, Colchester, has existing oyster pens built when the Romans occupied Britain. Indeed the oyster trade dates back 2000 years. You wouldn’t really know this as oysters are probably no more visible in Colchester than in any other town especially as they cost about a pound a shot – approximately 2000 Won each. My basket of delicious Oyster cost 20000 Won (£10) and there are probably 30 oysters – enough to make me feel a bit sick. And this is where I have to laugh because they cost the same price back in 2002!

I left the Oyster restaurant feeling a little sick and pissed and on the walk home passed a restaurant in which sat a group of around 6 waygukins. I stopped for a moment and spied on them. They were all young and shabby, the men unshaven and clearly back-packer types with a touch of goth about them as they were all mostly dressed in black and drab colours. One dumb-ass  had a tea cosy on his head and sat next to him was the guy I met going into the bathhouse today. No wonder he didn’t want to talk as he obviously has a gaggle of mates to chat with.

I ended up back at the bank where my little sojourn had begun and there, where I had left it, was my umbrella.

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.