Sometimes spicy won’t do. Extra hot won’t be good enough, either.
You don’t just want your food to make you sweat, you want a cathartic, painful, out-of-body experience due fueled by spice, chilis and serotonin.
I think this is how you heal a broken heart.
Once in a while discussion threads appear on Twitter and Reddit; Someone will ask where to find the spiciest food in the Twin Cities and people respond.
They often suggest Marla’s, On’s, Bangkok Thai Deli, Gandi Mahal, Grand Szechuan, Grand Catch, D-Spot, and Revival’s Poultrygeist sauce.
We haven’t tried all of these places (including his sister Marla’s, who was doing pop-ups at Able Seedhouse), but we’ve tried a bunch. The dishes we’ve enjoyed were spicy and delicious in their own right, but the heat levels still paled in comparison to Harry Singh’s.
The first time I tried Harry’s food, I went to his stand in the food building at the Minnesota State Fair.
I ordered jerk chicken roti. Having no concept of Harry Singh’s level of spicy, I asked if they could make it extra spicy.
I shrugged at the first couple bites.
The third and fourth caught up with me. It’s a good thing I was sitting. Heat consumed my mouth. I felt dizzy. My soul seemed to float outside of my body. And. for a moment, I had no idea if I was living or dying.
Last weekend I went to back to Harry Singh’s, this time at his Eat Street restaurant.
I was first to walk in the door promptly at noon. I ordered the jerk vegetable roti with fried sweet plantains.
We discussed the heat level and I wavered. A little spicy? Definitely not extra spicy. If I order the dish spicy, I probably don’t need a side of hot sauce.
Harry said he’d prepare it spicy and that I’d be fine. He included a side of hot sauce, too.
I was fine. Mostly. I definitely did not need the hot sauce.
The soft roti wrapped around a mixture of jerk-seasoned vegetables including carrot, cabbage, potatoes and beans. I alternated bites of roti and sweet plantain, eventually digging in my fridge for some yogurt sauce to cool the heat.
My husband and brother-in-law got a kick out of me trying to eat my meal, my cheeks growing increasingly red and shiny with sweat. They laughed until they tried some too, and then they understood.
Ordering spicy food at Harry’s isn’t just a wish – it’s a promise.
And, sometimes, maybe, it can feel like it’s healing a broken heart.
- Harry Singh on the Perfect Roti, Trinidad, and Life in the Kitchen by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, August 2019, MSP Mag