Well, this is a historic moment in not only Mastication Monologues history, but also in my own personal history of pushing the gastronomic boundaries of my stomach and will to eat whatever comes my way. I have had numerous experiences with eating legitimately spicy foods like chicken wings coated with sauce that was equal to law grade pepper spray (See Devil Wings), and not so “spicy” foods especially when it came to Korean food. Now, I’ve tried many different types of “spicy” Korean food like buldak which are popcorn chicken pieces in red chili sauce, or tteokbokki which are gelatinous rice cakes in chili sauce. However, neither lived up to the spice levels I’m used to back home where I put Sriracha chili sauce on everything like ketchup, and you could get spicy Tex-Mex food anywhere you looked. However, I finally met my match tonight. Out of all of the spicy foods that I have eaten in my life, I never ate anything as spicy as the Drop Dead Donkatsu at Onnuriye (Around the world) Donkatsu located at 355-23 Shindaebang2-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul (온누리에 돈까스, 서울특별시동작구 신대방2동, 355-23). Go to Sindaebangsamgeori station and leave exit 3. Go straight, and turn left at the CU. Then make a right at the next street and walk five minutes till you see a restaurant where the menu is literally on the ceiling inside and there are pictures of their famous breaded pork cutlets or donkatsus.
After my friend, Steph, and I wandered up and down looking for it for about ten minutes, we found it. It’s a traditional Korean restaurant, so there are no chairs, only cushions and low tables. There are pictures of only about 70 people on the wall who have finished the Drop Dead Donkatsu challenge. I read about it initially on the internet on CNN Travel, so I knew I had to test my mettle when it came to a spicy food challenge. When we sat down, they saw that I wanted to try the spicy donkatsu (15,000 W), and they made me first taste a sample. I chopsticked a piece into my mouth, and it was quite piquant. A quick note, they make you bring milk with you if you want to do the challenge. No milk, no challenge. What happened next made me quake fear a little inside out of fear. Once they saw that the first piece didn’t phase me, they opened my milk carton, poured me a glass of milk, and put a small, mysterious plastic packet in front of me. The waitress didn’t speak any English and was explaining everything in Korean, so I figured out she wanted me to drink the packet’s contents along with the milk. When I ripped the top of the packet off and started drinking it, I saw it was white and tasted really funny. Then I realized it was an antacid to help me eat the donkatsu. S&#t just got real. Eating contest contracts be damned!
Eventually it came out, and they explained the rules to me in Korean. I saw most of the restaurant was watching me as one of the spectators sitting next to me on the floor decided to jump in and translate for me. If I finished everything on my plate along with a bowl of rice in 20 minutes, I’d get it for free and my picture on the wall. I looked down at my plate which was bigger than a hubcap loaded with three mammoth slabs of pork staring back at me like a den of rattlesnakes about to strike.
I quickly got to business cutting each cutlet into small pieces faster than Edward Scissorhands on Meth, and I quickly was faced with a dose of reality when I popped the first two pieces in my mouth. The first one went down fine, but the second one was way too hot temperature-wise. The heat combined with the spice began to overwhelm me, so I took a good swig of milk which combated it quickly. Then I got two more pieces down, but I realized my body couldn’t take it. I started to hiccough, and my esophagus began to spasm. Thinking quickly, I began to eat some of the plain rice in the bowl next to me which had a negligible effect on the shock to the system. I got one more piece down, and my mouth, especially my throat, felt like I just swallowed molten lava. I slowed down immediately, and I realized that I had finally been bested. Eating the pickled radish and salad on the side were last ditch efforts to continue, but I threw in the towel due to being in so much discomfort. I don’t know what their secret marinade contains, but it must be some sort of supernatural pepper grown to simulate eating a piece of the sun. Our waitress just smiled and took away the plate like she has done it many times before, but thankfully she came out with a free dontkatsu for my trouble which was the best I’ve had since coming to Korea.
It was something about the breading that made it really shine. It was crunchy with an almost buttery finish to it that went hand in hand with the sweet curry it was swimming in. It was a nice change of pace from the blast furnace I just swallowed, and the cheese donkatsu (5,000 W) Steph had was perfect with the right balance of smooth mozzarella and succulent pork. She tried a single drop of the spicy sauce and was in pain for a couple minutes. That’s how bad it was.
Culinary adventures can only go so far until you realize that its your health at steak (see what I did there), and you have to live with the consequences of your choices. I didn’t feel like leaving the restaurant with a colostomy bag since these pieces of pork practiced their own form of a slash and burn campaign with my gastrointestinal tract. Word to the wise. I have to qualify my experience with the fact that I think my resistance to heat has dropped since moving to Korea since I went from eating spice everyday to a very bland diet. However, if you feel like you can muster up enough courage, and your organs are coated with teflon, please try the Drop Dead Donkatsu challenge. Either that or just get the regular donkatsu and pass up the pain. Either way, it’s quite the worldly experience at Onnuriye Donkatsu.