Eating Strings Ramen’s hell ramen is a terrifying challenge

You have to sign a waiver before attempting it
Eating Strings Ramen’s hell ramen is a terrifying challenge
Amy Stocklein
Strings Ramen's level five hell ramen

The poet Dante Alighieri described hell as a funnel of nine circles, each with its own particular brand of suffering. Strings Ramen describes hell as a massive bowl filled with noodles, crispy pork skin, ground pork, scallions, mushrooms and some of the most searing spicy shoyu broth your mouth will ever have the agony of enduring.

It’s known as the Monster Hell Challenge, and you actually have to sign a waiver to consume it – a waiver that includes the encouraging words “loss of life.” Let’s put it this way: When staff members look at each other, then over at you with a knowing smile on their faces, you know your order has just made you the entertainment.

Very few people – like maybe three a year, according to staffers at Strings Ramen’s Madison location on Frances Street – complete the actual challenge, which involves eating an entire bowl of level five spicy ramen in 20 minutes or less without leaving the table or guzzling more than the measly single allotted glass of water. It’s not hard to understand why: The level five Hell Ramen is fueled by no fewer than five different kinds of peppers, including ghost (which you’ve heard of) and scorpion (which you probably haven’t – it’s from Trinidad, and has been listed among the world’s hottest). The fact that the peppers infuse the broth, which soaks deeply into the bowl’s other ingredients, makes the heat completely impossible to dodge. And after your second or third bite, your tongue is essentially immersed in a spice-spiked lake of fire.

Fortunately for those who enjoy being able to taste the various ingredients in their ramen bowl – or for that matter, anything at all – Strings offers its Hell Ramen in four other levels of spiciness, each of which drops the pepper quotient to a far more manageable level. Literary history tells us that not many have journeyed through hell and lived to tell the tale. Especially when their tongues have been soaked in capsaicin.