Want Seoul's Spiciest Curry? You'll Have to Sign a Waiver - United Hub

Want Seoul’s spiciest curry? You’ll have to sign a waiver

By The Hub team

South Korea is proud of its spicy food. It is one of very few cold weather countries to embrace the chili pepper. Foreigners are often incredulously asked, “You can eat that?" when tucking into a bowl of kimchi jjigae or a plate of fire chicken.

But the hottest food in South Korea isn't kimchi stew, fire chicken or any of the country's other gastronomical blast furnaces. In a small alleyway in Seoul's theater district, an Iranian restaurant, Persian Palace, serves food so hot it has sent patrons to the hospital.

A hobby takes flight

Shapour Nasrollahi puts the gravy — spice Level 3.5 — on a chicken curry.

Shapour Nasrollahi puts the gravy — Level 3.5 — on a chicken curry. Credit: Copyright 2016 Martyn Thompson

Shapour Nasrollahi, the owner of Persian Palace, is that rare but increasingly common creature, an immigrant to South Korea, a naturalized Korean citizen with no Korean ancestry, only a passion for Korean culture, language and society. Born and raised in Iran, he served as a medic in the Iran-Iraq War, and was wounded in the leg during battle. In 1990 he moved to Japan, in an attempt to emigrate to Canada to attend medical school.

But after visiting a friend in Seoul, he decided to stay and learn the Korean language — he was fascinated with “Hangul," Korea's ultra-scientific writing system, studied in linguistics departments around the world. He learned the language and enrolled in college, obtaining degrees in medicine and psychology. He figured he would eventually go to work at a large South Korean company, but in the meantime, he'd like a break — he figured he'd cook.

“Cooking was my hobby all my life," he says. “I thought just to have a six-month to one-year break, and I'll make one small shop to do what I want, cooking."

Spicy to ultra-spicy curries

Curries ready to burn – from left, a Level 2.5 Veg, 3.0 Dal, and 3.5 Chicken.

Curries ready to burn – from left, a Level 2.5 Veg, 3.0 Dal, and 3.5 Chicken. Credit: Copyright 2016 Martyn Thompson

Shapour's spicy to ultra-spicy curries became legend, and soon his hard-to-find shop became extremely popular. He expanded and bought out the whole building, built a pub downstairs, and hasn't closed for a single day in 10 years. “I wanted to do this business for six months," Shapour says. “Six months became almost 15 years."

So how spicy is it? Shapour has engineered a number system so people can decide how hot they want their food. The lowest level is 2.0, which he says is comparable to kimchi. Two-point-five is like a “Mexican chili" pepper, and from there it gets stronger and stronger. If you want 5.0, he takes your blood pressure first, to decide if it's a good idea or not. After 6.0, a customer has to sign a waiver, promising that “if anything happens to him, he's responsible."

Off-the-scale heat

 A patron wipes her brow from the spicy food.

A patron wipes her brow. Shapour Nasrollahi says his curries are far stronger than any native Korean food. Credit: Copyright 2016 Martyn Thompson

“Look," Shapour says, “Level 5, sometimes they order, but I never, ever saw a person eat all of Level 5 and go out nicely. Do you know what I mean? They fall down."

No one has ever eaten a Level 10, though one patron once ordered one.

“Three years ago, one Korean guy he came here, it was Christmas Eve," Shapour says. “He was almost 100% drunk, he asked me for Level 10. I made Level 7 for him, because he made trouble here. I gave him Level 7. I told him, 'This is Level 10.'" Shapour laughs. “As I remember, two spoons he ate, and he never came back here again. I don't know what's happened to him."

Shapour uses a mix of 24 spices to make his curries, eight of which are spicy. Chief among those is the Sahara pepper, a small, round and wrinkly red pepper, which Shapour says is off the Scoville scale in hotness. He makes a masala out of it, as well as inserting it directly into the curries. “With bare hands, if you touch it, and then you touch your eyes, God [help] you."

A complex mix of flavors

Shapour and his chefs prepare the curries.

Shapour and his chefs prepare the curries. Credit: Copyright 2016 Martyn Thompson

Shapour doesn't practice medicine anymore, but he still sees himself as something of a doctor, using traditional ingredients to heal. For example, he says Iranians view cumin as good for digestion and post-pregnancy, cinnamon as a tonic for headaches and to warm you up, and cardamom as good for brain disease and to control anger.

But is the food really that spicy? Our party ordered four curries at four different heats: a vegetable curry (2.5), dal (3.0), chicken (3.5), and turkey (4.0), all eaten with plain nan.

Shapour's reputation as a cook stands up. A complex mix of flavors — cumin, coriander, curry and more — rise through the heat. But they are extremely hot, the last two painfully so, by far the hottest food we had ever eaten in South Korea. The final two curries were left unfinished.

And when one of us complained of indigestion caused by the fire, Shapour immediately provided a glass of Alka-Seltzer — he keeps a stock of it behind the cash register for situations just like these.

Main photo: Owner Shapour Nasrollahi relaxes at Persian Palace, the spiciest restaurant in Seoul. Credit: Copyright 2016 Martyn Thompson

This article was from Zester Daily and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

United's regional presidents join respective Governor's COVID-19 task force

By Ryan Wilks, May 21, 2020

As a member in the tourism, travel and transportation industries, United offers a unique perspective into the economic and operational effects rippling across the U.S. To advocate United's efforts, and in anticipation of a bright future, New York/New Jersey President Jill Kaplan and California President Janet Lamkin have both been named to their states' respective governor's COVID-19 response task force committees.

A message from Scott Kirby, United’s new CEO

By The Hub team, May 20, 2020


Hello. I'm Scott Kirby, the new CEO of United Airlines. I'm a proud Air Force Academy graduate and have spent my entire career in and around aviation, including the last four years as President of United.

While I had planned for my first communication with you to be about the meaningful investments we were making to the travel experience and our continued growth across the U.S. and expansion to exciting new destinations around the world, today, the situation rendered to us by the COVID-19 pandemic leads me to a different type of message.

First, I graciously and humbly thank you for your business. Now, more than ever, our customers' loyalty is so deeply appreciated by every member of the United family.

As essential workers, the men and women of our airline have been hard at work over the past two months to transport vital medical supplies and critical goods to places that need them most, to provide free travel to healthcare professionals and to help thousands of individuals repatriate to their home countries.

Safety has always been our top priority, and right now in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, it's our singular customer focus. We recognize that COVID-19 has brought cleanliness and hygiene standards to the front of your mind when making travel decisions. We're not leaving a single stone unturned in our pursuit to protect our customers and employees.

We are installing plexiglass in lobby and gate areas, we're using the same equipment used to clean hospitals to disinfect the interiors of our aircraft, all crew and customers on board are required to wear face mask coverings and we're taking the temperature of our employees before they start work.

But at United, we're not stopping there. We're teaming up with experts from Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic to set a new standard for cleanliness and healthy flying that we are calling United CleanPlus℠.

Clorox is working closely with us to improve how we disinfect common surfaces and provide our customers with amenities that support a healthy and safe environment.

Physicians and scientists at the Cleveland Clinic, will advise us on new technologies and approaches, assist in training development and create a rigorous quality assurance program. And, as scientists learn more about how to fight COVID-19, Cleveland Clinic experts will help us use those discoveries to quickly implement new ways to keep our customers safe.

While we may not know when this pandemic will subside, what we do know is that travel is so deeply woven into the fabric of our global culture. We all desire to visit family, dance at a friend's wedding, hug parents…and see the wonders of this beautiful world. No matter how sharp the picture quality – or how strong the WiFi signal – there's simply no substitute for being there – in person – to collaborate, celebrate, explore. We are confident that travel will return. And when it does, United Airlines will be ready to serve you again in the friendly skies.

Thank you. Be well. And I look forward to seeing you on board.

Making every step of the travel journey safer for you

By United Airlines, April 22, 2020
United Clean Plus | Clorox

We remain passionate about connecting the world safely

United CleanPlus SM is our commitment to putting health and safety at the forefront of your journey, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness. We're teaming up with Clorox to redefine our cleaning and disinfection procedures, and over the coming months, we'll roll out Clorox products across our U.S. airports, starting in select locations, to help support a healthy and safe environment throughout your travel experience.

At the airport

  • At check-in:

  • 1
    Implementing temperature checks for employees and flight attendants working at hub airports
  • 2
    Installing sneeze guards at check-in and gate podiums
  • 3
    Encouraging use of the United app for contactless travel assistance and more
  • 4
    Promoting social distancing with floor decals to help customers stand 6 feet apart
  • 5
    Introducing touchless check-in for customers with bags
  • At the gate:

  • 6
    Disinfecting high-touch areas such as door handles, handrails, elevator buttons, telephones and computers
  • 7
    Providing hand sanitizer and
    disinfectant wipes
  • 8
    Allowing customers to self-scan boarding passes
  • 9
    Boarding fewer customers at a time and, after pre-boarding, boarding from the back of the plane to the front to promote social distancing

On our aircraft

  • 1
    Providing individual hand sanitizer wipes for customers
  • 2
    Requiring all customers and employees to wear a face covering and providing disposable face coverings for customers who need them
  • 3
    Temporarily removing onboard items like pillows, blankets and inflight magazines
  • 4
    Disinfecting high-touch areas, like tray tables and armrests, before boarding
  • 5
    Reducing contact between flight attendants and customers during snack and beverage service
  • 6
    Ensuring aircraft cleaning standards meet or exceed CDC guidelines
  • 7
    Applying social distancing to seating procedures when possible, including:
    • Limiting middle seat selection
    • Moving customers seated closely together
    • De-planing in groups of five rows at a time to reduce crowding
  • 8
    Using electrostatic spraying to disinfect aircraft, to be completed on all flights by mid-June
  • 9
    Using state-of-the-art, hospital-grade, high-efficiency (HEPA) filters to circulate air and remove up to 99.7% of airborne particles

Cleveland Clinic We're working closely with the experts at Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing our cleaning and disinfection protocols for the safety of our employees and customers. Visit Cleveland Clinic's website to learn more about COVID-19.

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