After a break of a few weeks, my 34th challenge (no.24 on the list) was duly completed last night when I went head to head with a fiery curry. Elaine had asked for suggestions as to where we should go, and the “winner” was Jamal’s, a small, friendly restaurant fairly close to Middlesbrough town centre.
We met the owner. His name was Jamal.
No need to wonder how the restaurant got its name then.
Jamal has been running the business for nineteen years. He told us that he would cook our food himself, and he nudged me in the direction of one of the specials, Chicken Kalia, which he would prepare to ensure that it met the challenge brief of being the hottest dish on the menu.
Perfect. No further thought required. (Elaine ordered Chicken Rogan Josh.)
Although it was relatively early, there were already a few other diners in the restaurant, some of whom turned round when our meals arrived and Elaine took the obligatory “fork on way to mouth” photo.
The Chicken Kalia was certainly tasty... and bloody hot. I was pleased with the former, and not in the least bit surprised by the latter.
Jamal came over to ask if we were enjoying our food - we were - and to explain that one of the ingredients in my dish was the naga chilli, one of the hottest varieties of chilli pepper. Chilli strength is calculated using something called the Scovill scale, named (in true restaurant style) after its creator Wilbur Scovill in 1912. Apparently the naga chilli has been measured at over one million on the Scovill scale, although as far as assessing the potency or otherwise of spicy food is concerned, I do have my own foolproof post-meal method...
I also read that the naga chilli is sometimes smeared onto fences, or somehow used as part of a smoke bomb to ward off wild elephants. I’m not entirely sure whether or not these ideas are effective in north eastern India, but the lack of elephants on Corporation Road suggests they work fine over here...
And that’s pretty much it for the latest task. If you’re ever in Middlesbrough and fancy a bite to eat in a restaurant which offers a friendly welcome, a pleasant atmosphere, lovely food... and absolutely no wild elephants, Jamal’s certainly fits the bill.
I’m sure we’ll pay a return visit at some point, but as far as the challenges go, the next stop for me is the boxing ring!