In the hills of northeastern India, it's called the "bhut jolokia" — "ghost chili." Anyone who has tried it, residents say, could end up an apparition.
"It is so hot you can't even imagine," said the farmer, Digonta Saikia, working in his fields in the midday sun, his face nearly invisible behind an enormous straw hat. "When you eat it, it's like dying."
Outsiders, he insisted, shouldn't even try it. "If you eat one, you will not be able to leave this place," he said.
The rest of the world should prepare itself, because in the remote Indian region facing bloody insurgencies, widespread poverty and a major industry — tea farming — in deep decline, hope has come. And it takes the form of this thumb-size chili pepper with frightening potency and a superlative rating: the spiciest chili in the world. A few months ago, Guinness World Records made it official.
If you think you've had a hotter chili pepper, you're wrong.
The smallest morsels can flavor a sauce so intensely it's barely edible. An entire chili is an all-out assault on the senses, akin to swigging a cocktail of battery acid and glass shards.
For generations, though, it's been loved in India's northeast, eaten as a spice, a cure for stomach troubles and, seemingly paradoxically, a way to fight the summer heat.
Now, with proof that barreled the bhut jolokia into the record books — it has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness — northeast India is taking its chili to the outside world.
If you see one of these lil suckers, run. According to the Scoville rating scale, that is just under pepper spray in heat. Just mace your chili, and save the import fees.