22 Apr 2019

The insanity of Auckland's hot sauce festival

From Easter Monday, 9:30 am on 22 April 2019

In just over a month, hot chilli lovers from all over the country will gather in an Auckland bar to witness an event you might describe as sheer lunacy.

The two-day Hot Sauce Festival, now into its fourth year, features a competition for the best homemade hot chilli sauce and crowns the person able to eat the most of the world's hottest chilli, the Carolina Reaper.

The chilli eating champs kicked off in 2011, says Fire Dragon Chillies owner Clint Meyer and it was so successful that a hot sauce festival was a natural progression.

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Photo: Fire Dragon Chillies

Twelve of the best chilli eating competitors from around the country battle it out on stage at the festival, eating one chilli every four to five minutes with nothing to drink – it’s not for the faint hearted.

Last year the competitors were eating chillies for over two hours.

“They’re very hardcore,” says Meyer.

Waiheke Island's Chef Deb is somewhat of a Carolina Reaper fan. She likes them so much, she eats them every day.

“I can actually eat two in one go now, which is good-going,” she says.

“If you’re not really used to that sort of heat you’ve got to be a bit careful with them because it can be quite painful, but I’ve been eating chillies since about 2001 so I’ve got a really, really high tolerance.”

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Photo: Chef Deb

She’s tried a range of chillies and likes a good all-around mouth burn and good taste.

“When you burn your mouth, you’re releasing endorphins into your system – the happy drug from your brain – so it’s the feel-good factor.”

The homemade hot sauce competition is also a popular feature of the festival, with at least 50 entries vying for the top spot.

“There’s some very good hobby sauce makers out there for sure.” says Meyer.

It’s all about the texture, consistency and of course the heat to flavour ratio, he says.

So, what does it feel like to eat the world’s hottest chilli?

We gave seven relative novice RNZ staffers a piece of Carolina reaper to find out.

While there was talk that the chilli didn’t have a lot of flavour, there was definitely talk of mouth-burn.

“It’s incinerating inside of us as it goes,” one staffer pipes up.

“It feels like my tongue is sweating,” says another.

It’s a slow burn, they say, as Charlie Dreaver goes in for a second piece.

Meyer agrees - the chilli doesn’t start off too hot to begin with, with fruity floral flavour as it ramps up, keeping the burn for another 10-15 minutes.

But if you’re going to try them yourself - milk, yoghurt, ice-cream, bread and rice are all the types of things you should have on hand, he says.

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