Terça-feira, 23 de Novembro de 2010

Project Apocalypse - How we made Nuclear Tacos at Codebits IV

Pedro, one of the evil master minds behind the Nuclear Tacos, sent us the following text:


"I don't exactly remember when the challenge was made, but I know when it was accepted: immediately.

Having had Nuclear Tacos in Austin earlier in 2010, Celso, Gustavo and me were in awe of how spicy and yet so good that food was. More than food, it was an experience and one we were keen to bring back home.

As Codebits was approaching, Celso called me to his office and asked me if I was willing to try and repeat that experience at this year's event. As I said, it was 'challenge accepted' right there and then.

I devised a four-step plan:

1. Investigate and try to contact the original Nuclear Taco team

I managed to find some videos and some hints online, but no one of the NT team would accept my friend requests on Facebook or reply my messages, so I took it to step 2.

2. Improvise, using what I could gather by myself

I found out the two main ingredients of Nuclear Tacos, besides beef, of course: Habanero pepper mulch and Red Savina Habanero powder.

I looked around, but couldn't find either and because I was on a sort of tight schedule to come up with a recipe, I turned my sights elsewhere: India.

Unable to find Red Savina, a South American pepper, I decided to go with Bhut Jolokia, an Indian pepper, which was easy enough to find powdered, in the UK. As for the fresh peppers, unable to find Habaneros, I decided to go with Malagueta peppers, which are abundant in Portugal.


Bhut Jolokia


My reasoning was: Normal Habaneros rate at 100k to 350k Scoville, Red Savina Habaneros are between 350k and 580 Scoville, Malagueta peppers are between 30k and 100k Scoville and Bhut Jolokia (aka Naga), have been measured at 1,041,427 Scoville.

So, unable to find the way hotter Habanero and Red Savina Habanero peppers, which might add up to upwards of 800,000 Scoville, I used a weaker Malagueta paired with the so called "ghost" pepper, Bhut Jolokia, weighting in at over a million Scoville units.

3. Test

Having ordered Bhut Jolokia powder from South Devon Chili Farm, I was ready to go with my first test. I made some chilli and took it to work where some brave guys tried it.

It was close, but no cigar. I hadn't added the Malagueta yet.





For the second test, I added the mulched fresh peppers, but I also added some Cayenne pepper and Piri-piri powder.

The second test was a success and sent David Ramalho into a spiral of hallucinogenic bliss for the entire day. Little did they know, my plan had a fourth phase.

4. Deploy

I made my calculations to cook for 100 of the expected 700 attendees at Codebits. I didn't fail by much, as we served only a little over 100 tacos (we have 111 signatures on file, but some people who helped around the kitchen also had a taco, so, I'm thinking 120 is about right).

I also made my calculations to make the tacos twice as hot as my second test had been. Yes, twice.

In the end, we were only short on cheese, everything else we had in excess, which is what you want, of course. We also had a soy-based veggie version, which was great for our vegetarian friends.

To add to the excitement, the powdered Jolokia, all 500 g of it, was MIA and it arrived only in the nick of time, midway through the afternoon of day two. Everyone was psyched and primed to go, so we got our OK and got cooking.

I was surprised and utterly proud of the people who set out to help me cook. We had never cooked together and no one in the group had ever cooked for 100 people, but everything went like clockwork and the result was a thing to be remembered.

I have to thank Celso Martinho for putting the challenge out there. José Castro and Teresa Barreira, who made sure my requests were met and the guys at Hipnose who, apparently, can get Bhut Jolokia powder for you, if you're so inclined.

I'd also like to thank the guy running the kitchen, but I can't remember his name. He was ultimately the one who went out and got the powder and the ground beef for us... and he put up with the mess we made. And I couldn't forget André Ribeirinho of Adegga.com who made available 24 bottles of excellent wine for us to serve with the food...

Finally, in no particular order, Pedro Correia, Paula Valença, Marta Fernandes, Fernando Afonso, David Ramalho, Gustavo Carvalho and Filipe Penedo who peeled, chopped, mulched, stirred, cooked, opened packages and served the people at Codebits: you guys rule! And Nuno Pereira, official taster and super spice resistant guy: his compliment at the end of it all meant the tacos were a success.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: how to make Nuclear Tacos.

Bear in mind, these are my Nuclear Tacos, they're a free form interpretation of what I had in Texas. To eat the real thing, you should go there. Still, I think my version is pretty awesome itself.

This is what you'll need:

  • 1kg Ground beef
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • A packet of Old El Paso taco seasoning (to make things easier)
  • 50-60 g of bhut jolokia powder
  • 20-50 g of piri-piri powder
  • 20-50 g of cayenne pepper
  • 100-150 g of fresh malagueta peppers, mulched
  • 10 g of ground cummin
  • Salt
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 can of peeled chopped tomatos
  • Vegetable oil


  • 2 fresh tomatos
  • 1 fresh iceberg letucce
  • 200 g shredded cheese (we used mozzarella, use whatever you like)
  • Tortillas (you can use crispy taco shells, we didn't because they break easily)

Now... all quantities above are estimates, except the bhut jolokia powder. You have to understand that making these tacos was more like a free jazz jam session than a well orchestrated symphony. I measured the suff out with my hands, mixed it with my hands and tasted it to find the right flavour.

I suggest you do the same.

Making the tacos is easy:

Warm a big skillet over high heat, add some vegetable oil just to coat the surface and then throw in the onion and garlic.

Give it a bit, but not much and add the meat. Let that mother fry - this is no health food, you want that meat fried - let it all brown evenly and add some salt while you're at it, and the taco seasoning mix.

Time to spice it up: add the mulched peppers (in case you don't know what mulch is: just put the fresh peppers in a blender and beat them to a pulp, don't lose any seeds, they're the good part), and mix them in. Let it cook a bit more and then put on your face mask.

Seriously, you want to have a mask on before you add the rest. And I'd also suggest gloves, although I forgot mine, which left me itching for hours.

Add the Bhut Jolokia powder, the Piri-piri, Cayenne and the cummin to add some smell. Make sure you mix everything well and let it cook until it looks kind of dry, then, it's time to add some juice: throw in the lime juice and the chopped tomato, including the pulp.

You should be coughing by now, unless you used a level 5 hazmat helmet, it's ok, it'll pass.

You can let the meat cook for a while, if you have time, just don't let it burn. And you're done.

Add meat to a tortilla, cover with lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese and enjoy.

If you like, add guacamole and sour cream, the latter helps protect the stomach from the intense heat, as do other dairy products. Water doesn't help. Beer helps everything.

Please remember to wash you hands and never, at any moment, touch your eyes, nose, ears and privates with any vestige of chilli on your hands. You will suffer if you don't heed this warning.

Finally, I sincerely hope everyone enjoyed their tacos and, at least, took home an experience to remember."


Some of the projects that won prizes at Codebits got a packet of bhut jolokia powder.


Be responsible, have fun and... pics or it didn't happen!

publicado por jac às 13:50
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2 comentários:
De Luis Correia a 23 de Novembro de 2010 às 14:19
Better then a picture, a video.

btw, i'm the fat bald bloke in the middle.


thanks for letting me have at it, next year I'll be a veteran!

De João Costa a 25 de Novembro de 2010 às 11:33
Thanks for the recipe, that's just what I needed

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