£6.00Café Caribbean, Old Spitalfields Market, London
The other day I sat across a room and watched a friend of mine, Tom H, slowly morph from a man into a screaming fangirl over Jerk Chicken from a place called Café Caribbean. “Are you good with spicy food?” he asked. “No,” I responded, rather worried at the prospect of slowly shutting down internally due to fire damage. He proceeded to tell me that as the establishment was a small one, the spice levels in their cuisine varies from day to day, rather like my patience for life in London. “If you’re good with sweet chilli sauce, you should be okay,” he convincingly said.
He comes back ten minutes later with a paper bag (which in hindsight, I’m surprised didn’t turn to a superfine ash) holding our midday meal. I gratefully thank him as he paid and we plate it up. Two chicken thighs slathered in sauce, with rice and the occasional bean along with a sorry excuse for a salad. As a passerby, the dish looks like a hearty and grand meal – as a man who made it through the experience, it was a sinister beartrap.
“As my eyes melted down my face I thought here is no way that anyone could ever enjoy having their face totally blasted off from the inside out via blistering heat”
I pulled the chicken apart and loaded my fork with rice before shoveling it into my mouth. It was then that I was carried away by a gentle caress of a warm, Caribbean evening. I could hear the waves pull themselves up to kiss the shore, and I could feel the sand beneath my toes slowly cool as the sun softly laid her head down to rest below the horizon. In my food-induced instance, I pondered towards the stars and thought about love, life, and more. Then the floor opened up and I fell suddenly into the raging fires of hell where I was to be constantly mauled to death and revived by all of the demons ever for hours. Swallowing the sun’s core covered with incendiary grenades would have proved a walk in the park compared to the incomprehensibly insane levels of heat that this plate of simple homestyle food managed to produce.
Now, as briefly mentioned, I don’t eat a lot of spicy curries as I’m not one of the millions of people that inhabit this country who fancies a curry and fistfight after a hard day of hooliganism (very broad and sweeping generalisation right there. Sue me), but as my eyes melted down my face I thought there is no way that anyone could ever enjoy having their face totally blasted off from the inside out via blistering heat.
After the first mouthful, I couldn’t taste anything. I couldn’t see past my own hands.
I thought about setting myself on fire just to cool down, instead, I went for the salad as advised by the dude who I dined a death with. Quickly, I shoved as much of the drab salad (punched-flat iceberg lettuce, old and dry tomatoes, and pulled apart cucumbers) into my mouth, which actually looked like this guy’s by this point:
It was a very minor relief in an impossible battle. A battle was deemed lost when I reached out for a bottle of water and basically ate it. Nothing will ever taste the same to me again after the damage my tongue sustained that day nor will anything in our known universe be as hot.