At last count, only three people had tackled the spicy crawfish pho challenge at LA Crawfish -- and all three had failed. My friend Tucker O'Bannon was determined to be the fourth challenger, and the first winner.
Tucker eats ghost peppers like potato chips. He finishes large bowls of pho in five minutes flat. He hosts backyard crawfish boils with the best of them. If anyone was going to finish the 24-inch stainless steel mixing bowl full of crawfish pho, it was going to be Tucker.
I paid the $21 entrance fee and we waited on tenterhooks while the LA Crawfish crew scooped a batch of ultra-spicy, ghost pepper-laced pho into the bowl. A manager, Joe, paraded it through the food court at 99 Ranch to our table, where a crowd of onlookers quickly gathered to cheer Tucker on.
"What's he doing?" a woman asked as I focused my camera on Tucker, and Joe whipped out a stopwatch to count down the alloted 30 minutes.
"I'm trying to finish this whole thing," Tucker grinned in response. The woman looked at the sheer size of the bowl and laughed.
"Good luck!" He would need it, too. In addition to the spice level of the pho, the bowl itself was too hot to even touch. Would the soup even cool off enough inside the metal bowl before the half hour was up? We would soon find out.
Interested in taking the crawfish pho challenge for yourself? Let LA Crawfish know at least 24 hours in advance. The cost of entry is $21, which you'll get back if you finish the entire bowl. You'll also get your photo on the wall and a T-shirt good for 10 percent off at LA Crawfish for life (if you wear the shirt when you come in).
Fail, however, and LA Crawfish will twist the knife that much more: You aren't even allowed to take that delicious leftover crawfish pho home.
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