But Strings has a plan to separate itself from competitors in the area by offering more than just soothing strong bowls of noodles (our colleagues over at Time Out Chicago listed them as one of the city’s top ramen spots). In addition to tonkotsu ramen and rice dishes, it also offers a soup for the more adventurous.
In fact, you actually have to sign a waiver before slurping the insanely spicy “Monster Hell Ramen.” Those willing to brave the heat can participate in the restaurant’s ongoing competition. If you finish the “Monster Hell” in 20 minutes or under, not only do you get a free meal and bragging rights, but you'll also receive a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant and a Monster Hell t-shirt. No strings attached!
According to an official spokesperson for Strings, the dish is “based on ancient Buddhist mythology, [where] hell is divided into numerous levels. In each level, different punishments await, including tongue ripping, eye gouging, teeth extraction, skinning, and pouring boiling liquids down sinners' throats.” Inspired by the folly, the Hell Ramen has several levels of increasing heat, five being the strongest.
The dish comes with crispy-fried pork skin, supposedly “symbolizing human skin burnt in oil,” as well as ground pork mixed with baby clams, asari, scallions, and, of course, hot peppers and chilli paste.
The waiver is downloadable on Strings’ website, and says that the challenger is allowed to drink “one cup of water” and that any add-ons or drinks will disqualify a challenger. “The participant acknowledges that Hell Ramen is made with pepper extract, some of the hottest peppers on earth: Pequin Pepper, Ghost Pepper, Habanero, and other secret seasonings and spices with an extreme degree of heat.” For reference, the Trinidadian Scorpion Pepper measures 500,000 - 1,462,700 Scovilles and is considered to be the world’s hottest chilli pepper, and not just because of the buzz around the challenge.
We can’t imagine a world in which participating in an eating contest—it's obviously part of a marketing ploy—could ever be worth all the pain. But, hey, if you’re willing to risk it….
Strings Ramen, 188 2nd Avenue, New York, NY. The business operates from 11am to 10pm daily.