From tandoori kebabs to saag paneer, what most of us stateside grew up thinking was Indian food actually represents only a slice of the subcontinental pie, primarily to the north and west. It’s the increasingly available food of the south, however, that will melt your face off like Toht’s in Raiders. Take the Andhra Pradesh-style goat pepper fry I tried at Paradise Biryani Pointe in Greenwood Village. The deep, dark, tender, bone-in chunks of goat meat came coated in a gravy that tasted as fierce as it looked, reminiscent of cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and enough pepper -- red and black -- to seep immediately through my tongue and keep on going all the way down my gut, where it clawed me to shreds for a few hours. What joyful abuse it was.
That said, it had nothing on phall.
Like chicken tikka masala, phall’s a British-Indian invention. Unlike chicken tikka masala, it will blow the roof off your mouth. On the menu at India Tavern in the DTC, it’s listed with a warning that you have to verbally agree not to sue for damages before they’ll serve it to you. As it turns out, I wasn’t forced to voice a waiver; I was, however, forced to voice agony while basically committing arson to my insides with every incinerating bite. Forget flavor; the focal point here was the endorphin rush it provided -- the feeling that I couldn’t stop eating it, because when the adrenaline slowed, the horror of my self-inflicted crime would fully sink in. Which is delicious in itself.
The same goes for ordering “Thai hot.” US Thai in Edgewater has a long reputation for obliging the request, but my server admitted when I asked that the concept is somewhat gimmicky. In Thailand, balance among contrasting flavors -- spicy, sweet, sour, bitter -- generally trumps heat for heat’s sake. She also suggested, with a disconcertingly nervous laugh, that I stick with plain old “hot.” But I was in it to win it, so Thai hot green curry it was.