jake’s sandwich board – ghost pepper steak

Jake’s Sandwich Board in Center City serves up a sandwich called the Fire Steak. This sandwich consists of rib-eye steak, fire sauce, fried onions, mushrooms, provolone, and a fried long hot. For one more dollar, you can upgrade the Fire Steak to the Ghost Pepper Steak. The difference? They add 20 drops of a ghost pepper extract to the sandwich. Oh yeah, you also have to sign a waiver.

This visit to Jake’s came about when I convinced a coworker to try the Ghost Pepper Steak. It built up some decent hype in the office as 5 others joined us for lunch as well as a few friends who found out my coworker was trying it. Two others told my poor coworker that they’d be ordering the Ghost Pepper Steak as well. Once we got there, they flaked out and he was the sole victim…at that time. Most of the others, including myself, ordered the Fire Steak.

The Fire Steak was really good. Had a nice kick and was just damn tasty. Anyway, back to what this post is mainly about. We all stared at my coworker as he was prepping himself to take his first bite. Almost immediately after one bite was taken, his face started to turn red. After two or three, he was reaching for the paper towels to wipe the sweat off his forehead. There was constant nodding of his head and a softly spoken, “Oh my god, that is hot.” Unfortunately, he did not get past half of the sandwich. You could say he took down about a quarter.

Well, I finished my Fire Steak as did a couple others. We had our entertainment and decided we (some of us) oughta try some of this Ghost Pepper Steak. One coworker cut a 2-3 bite piece of it, ate it, and said, “Wow, that is hot.” and had a slight runny nose after. That’s it. I wasn’t convinced it was that hot after he had it.

Then came my turn. Keep in mind, my mouth was probably already prepped (in a bad way) because of the Fire Steak. I also cut a small 2-3 bite piece. After finishing…it started. Holy crap. It was burning. A waterfall of sweat started to pour down from my face/forehead. Call me a wimp if you must (Mikey, I’m looking at you.), but that thing hurt. I’ve eaten some spicy things in my life but never have I ever had urges to run over to the counter asking for milk! I was able to sit out until the pain subsided though.

One of my friend’s who joined us, Lou, ended up tweeting this embarrassing but funny picture of me suffering.

Collin Flatt of The Feast also has a video of Marcos (Fidel Gastro) attempting to finish the Ghost Pepper Steak.

I’m glad I tried it but whew that was painful. Marcos, I only had a couple bites and had a crazy stomach ache later. I can’t even imagine…props.

Jake’s Sandwich Board
122 South 12th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

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cooking: dan dan mian (擔擔麵)

So I spent 6 weeks in Shanghai, China for a study abroad program back in school. It was easily the best 6 weeks of my life and I got to try some pretty amazing food while I was out there. Only then, did I first get to try and realize what Sichuan food was really like. Shanghai is not in the Sichuan province, but in China, they have region specific restaurants all over and you can experience foods from the different provinces when you’re in a big city.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get across… I went to a Sichuan restaurant and my mind was blown. Sichuan food uses hua jiao, the Sichuan peppercorn, which gives Sichuan food it’s tingly, numbing mouthfeel. Not only did I become addicted to hua jiao, I also became addicted to Sichuan dishes such as dan dan mian (a spicy noodle dish) and mapo doufu (a spicy tofu dish). The entire time I was there, I couldn’t get over that the Chinese food served in the US is nowhere near as awesome as the food in China. Within weeks of being back in the US, I was China obsessed and craved some of the food I was eating just weeks ago. Luckily, I stumbled across Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty and ordered it immediately.

hua jiao, sichuan peppercorn

Back in college, I cooked a lot from this book and her Hunan cookbook, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. I learned a bunch about the ingredients used in Sichuan and Hunan dishes and had many fantastic meals. Unfortunately, I haven’t been making Chinese food as of late. No real reason, I just kind of forgot about it I guess. Luckily, I had a hankering for dan dan mian the other day and I pulled out Land of Plenty and came up with a recipe which is kind of a mix between two of the dan dan mian recipes she has in her book.

some of the ingredients you may need (clockwise from bottom: noodles, scallions, sesame paste, shaoxing, peanut oil, chili oil, sesame oil, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, ground roasted sichuan peppercorn)

Dan Dan Mian 擔擔麵
Adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty
Serves 2-4

-1 lb. chinese noodles (I like to use Twin Marquis lo mein noodles
-6 scallions, chopped

ingredients for meat
-1 tbsp peanut oil
-1/2 tsp ground roasted hua jiao
-4 oz ground beef
-2 tsp light soy sauce
-1 tsp shaoxing

ingredients for sauce
-1 tsp ground roasted hua jiao (can be adjusted to spice preference)
-1/4 tsp salt
-4 tsp sesame paste
-1 tbsp light soy sauce
-1 tbsp dark soy sauce
-2 tbsp chili oil

Before you start, make sure you have everything ready to go. When you cook in a wok, you have to move quickly, so it’s important everything is at hand.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Let this come to a boil while you follow the next steps. Do NOT place the noodles in the water until you’re done making the sauce.

Heat up the peanut oil over med-high heat in a wok. Just before it starts to smoke, toss the hua jiao in and stir fry quickly until fragrant. Immediately add the ground beef followed by the shaoxing. Once the meat has been separated, add the soy sauce. Stir fry until a little crispy, but not dry. Set aside when finished.

Next, whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a medium sized bowl until smooth. Make sure the sesame paste is no longer clumpy. Take about half of the scallions and toss them in the bowl. The result should look similar to this:

Once the sauce is finished, place the noodles into the water and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Drain noodles and immediately place into the bowl with the sauce. Top with ground beef.

At restaurants, the dish is served like so, sauce on the bottom, noodles, and topped with the meat. Of course, you have to stir it all up. This is why I use the large bowl. It can get messy if it’s placed in a smaller bowl.

dan dan mian

Once mixed all together, sprinkle remaining scallions on top.


This dish keeps me sane between visits to Han Dynasty.

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