The things I do for my street rep.
The first time I heard about the Orochon Spicy #2 challenge, I thought, “Come ON.” Every couple of months, it would come up in conversation and every time, I would scoff. After the Jitlada Dynamite Challenge, there was no way I would be scared of a bowl of Serrano-infused soup.
But once we actually set a date for me to tackle the Spicy #2 and I did a little research, I started to worry.
To complete the challenge, you have to finish the entire steaming hot, 72-oz bowl in thirty minutes or less, noodles, chiles, broth and all. The reward? No, the ramen isn't free. In fact, you don't even get one of the snazzy t-shirts. Just a photo on the 'Wall of Bravery' for a short period of time (I think the photos get switched out every couple of months). Was this worth it? I decided that it probably wasn't, but that I would do it anyway. For bragging rights and all that.
Waiting on a friend to join us, we wandered around the Weller Court shopping center in Little Tokyo for a few minutes before heading up to Orochon on the third floor. I took the opportunity to do some stretches, pace, check the flood of encouraging tweets. Finally, we made our way into the small ramen shop. I scanned the "Wall of Bravery" on the way in - only one girl? This worried me and strengthened my resolve in equal parts. See if you can spot Man vs. Food host Adam Richman on the wall (below).
Our party placed its orders, and when the server got to me, my words came out in an adrenaline-fueled rush: “Spicytwochallenge.” She smiled. I selected the soy base, as opposed to salt or miso, because my research had indicated it was the best bet (apparently, the miso is too thick and the salt is, well, too salty).
Little dishes of spicy minced scallop and dumplings preceded the arrival of my opponent, but I paid them no mind. The huge, filled-to-the-brim bowl was placed before me very carefully, and the timer was set. Thirty minutes or less.
The cheers began as I brought the first spoonful of dark red broth to my lips, the overwhelming aroma of chile powder filling my nostrils. And down it went. No offense to the very friendly staff of Orochon, but…the ramen was not good. You know the thick mouth feel of good ramen? That fattiness that coats your lips and fills your stomach with delight? Yeah, none of that here. The broth was watery and the only thing I tasted was chile powder, chile powder, and more chile powder. Whatever, I wasn’t here for the taste. For the first 10 minutes, I methodically went about my business, alternating between sipping broth and slurping noodles.
Then doubts started creeping in. At first, the “spicy” element of the challenge hadn’t really even registered – my biggest concern was that the soup was scalding my mouth, temperature-wise. But then I started feeling an uneasiness building in my stomach. I had eaten all of the noodles, and faced with an almost half-full bowl of watery chile sludge at the 13-minute mark, I set down my spoon momentarily and reflected on the life-choices I had made to bring me to this point.
That’s when having good friends around made all the difference. I rallied to the sound of their supportive words, and at minute 19, I upended the massive bowl and let the last of the noxious liquid trickle into my mouth. Victory was mine!! (After I was finished, employees told us that the fastest it had ever been done was 17 minutes. If only I'd known ahead of time!)
Don’t let the big smile fool you. That was not the end of the story. No, the story took a somewhat gruesome twist some 20 minutes later, and that will remain a secret between me, the accompanying friends, and a potted plant a few blocks from the restaurant. And it’s definitely a one-time only experience – you could not pay me to do it again. Nevertheless, for a short time, I basked in the glory of my accomplishment and the accolades of my friends. And began thinking up the next challenge to tuck under my belt.