I have two addictions in my life that I really struggle with: tortilla chips and spices. Maybe it's because my family travelled to Mexico on vacation so frequently in my childhood, but I became accustomed to chomping down on some seriously hot peppers in my time - chilies that were so explosively spicy it was like eating sheer napalm, leaving you gasping for water with tears running down your eyes, your face as scarlet as a bullfighter's cape. The other great love of my life, the humble tortilla chip, was served with everything and I could never resist munching through whole bags of them.
So you can imagine how excited I became when I heard the news that one tortilla manufacturer was planning to combine my own two passions into one lovingly-crafted piece of culinary engineering. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Carolina Reaper Madness chip. Make no mistake: this thing is sizzling.
Tortilla chip manufacturer Paqui, which is based in Austin, Texas, has created a monster: a fusion of tortilla chip and the world's spiciest chili, for a one-bite-and-you're-done curio that's for aficionados only. Contained inside this cute little hexagonal box (any resemblance to a coffin is almost certainly intentional) is exactly one chip, and only one chip. "Only one?" I hear your complain, "usually you get a whole bag full of them. It can't be that special!" Well it is that special. And trust me, at these temperatures you'll only need one. Two at once would probably kill you.
This chip gets its incredible heat from the Carolina Reaper chili pepper, a specially cultivated hybrid bred by Ed "Smokin" Currie, proprietor of the PuckerButt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, who collaborated on this project with Paqui.
In a statement regarding his mutant-devil creation, the tortilla chip baked in the furnace of hell itself, Jeff Day, the Brand Manager for Paqui Chips, made his excitement plainly clear: "We're always looking to push the limits to find fun ways for our fans and consumers to engage with us." He added, "It's the hottest chip you'll ever have, I can guarantee you that. After you eat that one chip, trust me, you're not looking to dig back into the bag and have a second one. So, one chip is what we created to have the experience."
Day recommends chasing the chip with ice cream, milk, yogurt, sour cream, guacamole or honey to help with the tremendous kick. Don't have water though. All that will do is swirl the spice around your mouth like a fiery mouthwash. This is because the chemical compound responsible for the burning feeling is called capsaicin. It binds to pain receptors in your mouth, but capsaicin is a non-polar molecule and dissolves in other non-polar molecules, so drinking other things containing non-polar molecules, such as dairy products, will bring you cooling relief.
The Carolina Reaper crossbreed was between a Ghost pepper (a former world record holder) and a red habanero. It was dubbed "Reaper" due to the scythe-like shape of its tail, and it's the hottest chili in the world. The official Guinness World Record heat level is 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), according to tests conducted by Winthrop University in South Carolina. It might be too hot to eat for most, but the oils produced could be used to treat arthritis and muscle pain.
The Carolina Reaper chip, available for $4.99, is a limited-edition offering, available at Paqui, beginning in late September, and available at select stores nationwide beginning October 1st. Make sure you've got a taste for serious spice before you try it though, or you might just bite off more than you can chew!