Some foods come with a legend. With “Death Noodles,” that legend went viral on the internet when one man, Ben Sumadiwiria, claimed he went deaf for two minutes after shoveling down a plate of the scorchingly spicy meal.
The base of the intense dish is actually quite innocuous: Indomie noodles, a type of instant spiced noodles made in Indonesia. Even though they’re packaged noodles from a popular brand, it’s common to find Indomie served up in Jakarta’s cafés and warung (late-night, hole-in-the-wall establishments). Each eatery offers its own culinary twist.
The variation Sumadiwiria tried is called Mie Goreng Pedas Mampus. Better known as “Death Noodles,” the dish may taste like it was made in hell, but it actually comes from a warung known as Abang Adek, located in the backstreets of Jakarta. At Abang Adek, you can get various Indomies, customize your toppings and flavors, and pick your spice level. The hottest category, pedas mampus, is made up of 100 to 150 ground-up bird’s eye chilies that coat the normally innocent noodles.
A single bird’s eye chili reaches around 100,000 on the Scoville scale, a ranking system that measures the relative spiciness of the world’s hottest foods. That’s hot, but not at the top: The spiciest chili on the planet is the Carolina Reaper, which sometimes hits up to 2,200,000 on the Scoville scale. However, the reason why Death Noodles reach astronomical dimensions of searing heat is due the cumulative effect of all the peppers in one dish. After they’re prepared, the noodles are said to reach a scorching Scoville rating of 20 million. Just for comparison, Tabasco falls at 5,000 on the scale.
Where to Try It
Even if you don't want the fiery pedas mampus, there are plenty of other noodle options at this Jakarta establishment.