Don’t fear the Carolina Reaper seasoning at Casian Crawfish
Houston has an intense and growing fondness for Vietnamese-style Cajun crawfish, often coated with lip-smacking spices that ramp up the heat.
But one local Vietnamese restaurant specializing in spicy mudbugs is taking things to incendiary levels.
Casian Crawfish has created Viet-style crawfish coated with Carolina Reaper chile pepper that will blow some heads off even the most aggressive heat-seeking diners. The restaurant has even come up with its own food challenge to consume what is surely the city’s most ballistic, fiery crawfish.
Casian Crawfish owners, Troy Nguyen and his wife, Laura Hsu, believe they are the only Vietnamese crawfish purveyors in Houston tossing their boiled critters in the Carolina Reaper pepper.
Just how hot is this tiny firebomb? It clocks in at 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units (the Scoville scale is used to gauge the pungency of chile peppers). By contrast, the Ghost Pepper, perhaps the most famous of the super-hot peppers, ranks at 1,041,427 Scoville Heat Units. Traditional cayenne pepper, used to spice up crawfish boils, is a measly 125,000 SHU, while a jalapeño pepper is 2,500 to 5,000 SHU.
Now that crawfish season is underway - later than usual because of unprecedented cold weather - Casian Crawfish is ready to make people suffer with their Carolina Reaper challenge, open to anyone 18 and older.
Anyone up for the challenge must consume 2 pounds of Carolina Reaper-coated crawfish in 15 minutes and endure an additional five minutes of “burn time” for another level of culinary cruelty. Only one glass of water will be provided.
The challenge also requires that contestants sign a waiver of liability, which states that contestants cannot use napkins or gloves or wear lip balm. There are no bathroom breaks and “no whining.”
Oh, and the crawfish must be completely eaten and the heads sucked.
Anyone who completes the challenge will get a special T-shirt, a refund of the cost of the 2 pounds of crawfish consumed, a picture on the wall and the website and, perhaps most important of all, bragging rights.
“It’s something nobody else has,” Hsu said of the challenge.
How much is the challenge? Contestants must pay for 2 pounds of crawfish at market price (on the day we visited, $7.99 per pound) plus an additional $10 for the cost of the seasoning. So, about $26, which would be refunded as a gift certificate for a future visit, if the challenge is completed.
Nguyen, who said he enjoys spice and has a high tolerance for heat, admits that even he would have a hard time with the Carolina Reaper.
Of course, Casian Crawfish has other dishes that don’t try to torch you alive. The restaurant’s Vietnamese crawfish styles include a wet garlic butter and spice mixture; a dry Cajun spice blend; dry Cajun with Key lime; and “all-in,” a spicy garlic butter with lime. The same flavorings can be had on Texas blue crab, jumbo shrimp or snow crab leg clusters. Heat, too, can be adjusted.
The menu also includes oysters on the half shell, seafood gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo, Vietnamese eggrolls, fried seafood, Vietnamese fried rice, Vietnamese beef stew, shaking beef, char-broiled lemongrass pork and an unusual side dish of fried corn.
The owners say they hope the Carolina Reaper crawfish challenge will bring some recognition to their restaurant, which opened June 7.
Hsu said they announced the challenge to coincide with the anticipated start of crawfish season. “We’re getting 20-30 calls a day” from diners inquiring about fresh crawfish.
Perhaps it’s not a good time to tell the proprietors that there’s a new chile pepper that’s even hotter. Called the Dragon’s Breath, it pushes the Scoville rating to 2.48 million. Maybe that’s fodder for another fiery pepper challenge.