Death Noodles: Jakarta's Spicy Dish That Had The Internet Talking

Spicy foods are a hot commodity, both literally and figuratively. Whole Foods Market Trend Council named hot sauce one of its top five condiments for summer 2022, and Food & Beverage Insider notes that product launches of spicy foods have increased every year for over a decade. Along with the trend have come new revelations about the health benefits of spicy food, including a University of Vermont study that linked hot foods to reduced mortality. But you know what they say about having too much of a good thing.

According to Medical Daily, capsaicin, the chemical that makes chile peppers spicy, is in fact a neurotoxin, and in huge amounts it can lead to heart attacks, seizures, and even death. But before you panic and throw out your hot sauce, listen to Paul Bosland, director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. He told LiveScience that most people's bodies will physically prevent them from eating deadly levels of spice, often in the form of vomiting or fainting. Still, there are close calls. Matt Gross, a writer for Bon App├ętit, recounted his experience eating three Carolina Reapers, the hottest chile pepper verified by the Guinness Book of World Records. His throat swelled and he suffered such severe heartburn he feared he was having a heart attack. As scary as that sounds, the heat that Gross endured pales in comparison to Indonesia's terrifyingly-named Death Noodles.

You won't die, but you might go deaf

The streets of Indonesia are home to millions of warungs, small, family-owned street stalls that offer a wide array of products from home goods to food (via CNBC). It's hard to stand out when you've got millions of competitors, but Abang Adek, a warung in Jakarta, found a way with their signature dish: Mie Goreng Pedas Mampus, better known as "Death Noodles," per Atlas Obscura. Each bowl of noodles is coated in a sauce made from 100 to 150 bird's eye chile peppers, and reportedly reaches a Scoville rating of 20 million. For comparison, a habanero comes in around 100,000 Scoville heat units (SHU) and Tabasco sauce is about 5,000.

As previously mentioned, death by spicy food is unlikely, but Abang Adek gets frighteningly close. The cumulative heat of the Carolina Reapers that Matt Gross ate was under five million SHU, just a quarter of the spice Death Noodles are packing. Few people have dared to try this dish, but one especially courageous food blogger named Ben Sumadiwiria polished off a bowl and described it as "the worst feeling you'll ever have in your life" (via Vice). He also claimed he went deaf for two minutes after the meal. If you're up for the challenge, here's a tip: The Jakarta Post says the number for an ambulance is 118.