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The Inferno Bowl

Restaurant: Nitally’s ThaiMex Cuisine
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida

Generally, there are two things that make an eating challenge difficult: sheer size of the portion, or overwhelming heat or spice. The Inferno Bowl at Nitally’s ThaiMex Cuisinehas both.

The soup is served in a 48 ounce bowl and includes no less than 12 different peppers from around the world. Although the mix changes with the season, it always includes bhut jolokia (also known as the "ghost chili"). The chilies themselves comprise about 16 ounces of the soup. The restaurant uses both Thai and Mexican techniques to draw as much heat out of the peppers as possible.

Ally Valdez, who owns Nitally’s with his wife, describes how the dish was created: “My wife is from Thailand and my family is from Mexico...we always argued about who ate the hottest food. So, we went out of our way to find the hottest peppers we could use and made a soup that hardly any family members could eat.” They served the soup in traditional Chinese bowls meant for family-sized servings, but limited it to one person. “We found that the people who could eat the hot food couldn’t eat that much, and the family members who could deal with the quantity couldn’t handle the heat.”

Valdez says that since the challenge began in 2009, 116 people have attempted to finish the Inferno Bowl. The closest challenger came within two spoonfuls before throwing in the towel. Others throw in more than that. The Inferno Soup is so spicy that the restaurant requires challengers to eat it outside, since about 40 percent of the challengers have vomited while trying to finish the soup within the 30 minutes allotted.

“You have to come from the depths of hell to finish this,” says Valdez, who is currently offering a jackpot of $800 to the first person to conquer the Inferno Bowl.

Photo: Ally Valdez | Nitally's ThaiMex Cuisine