World’s Hottest Hot Dog
What do the only hot dog ever to be served at a Nobel Prize party and the world’s hottest hot dog have in common? Both are titles that only Jesper Levin’s Helldog can claim, shares writer Jessica Elliott.
At a passing glance, Helldog of Stockholm looks like your average street hot dog stand. But there is so much more to the story. Helldog is run by Stockholm native Levin who has been selling hot dogs to locals and tourists alike for 17 years. But a little over five years ago, he got bored of selling the same dogs that every other vendor was hawking.
He went to vendors and asked if he could alter the recipe of the dog. “I wanted less sh*t, more meat.” He focused on getting the chemicals out and real spices in. Excited to bring something different to the market, he was surprised when his customers pushed back, saying that it wasn’t spicy enough, even comparing it to the heat of baby food.
Introducing the Harakiri.
When customers called his new dogs too mild, Levin didn’t get discouraged, he got motivated. “I’m gonna f*@k you up.” He decided to make the hottest hot dog in the world using only natural spices. He thought about naming it “the kamikaze,” but scratched that because it meant to inflict pain on someone else. “The jihad” would be too political. Then he discovered harakiri – Japanese ritual suicide, tradition of samurai executed by using a short blade to slice across the abdomen and disembowel.
What does all this guts and gore have to do with hot dogs? You’ll notice that Levin’s Harakiri is sliced end to end, with sauce bleeding out, a graphic allusion to the tradition that might make some queasy if they knew about it.
Everyone likes to claim to be the best or hottest or first or funniest in the world, but do they have the goods to back it up?
One bite of the Harakiri will leave you without question.
Would you expect your normal visit to a street vendor to be streamed on Facebook Live? At Helldog, you should.
Jesper streams out to his fans every night and each video gets 20,000-50,000 views. Whether fans are tuning in to watch the latest sucker commit Harakiri or to play along with music trivia in Levin’s downtime, they’re always in for a show.
“The internet is my best friend,” Levin says. Once he started putting the Harakiri attempts online, Helldog went viral across Sweden in 10 days.
He even plans to use it during the winter to launch his own dating series. For a guy who claims to be more famous than the king, who the establishment doesn’t like, this should be interesting. Be sure to check out Harakiri korven helldog on Facebook so you don’t miss the fun.
“This is guerilla warfare. I don’t do it the red carpet way – I do it my way.”
What kind of man wants to subject his customers to such pain?
You might be a bit intimidated walking up to Helldog, seeing Levin wearing a gas mask as he cooks or flipping off the camera or screaming at his Facebook Live stream. But once you get past all that, you’ll see a business man, pouring his energy into the in-your-face experience he has created.
The same man will yell at and laugh with his customers, while torturing them with the Harakiri, and go back to his suppliers to make sure he’s getting the freshest ingredients and spice the natural way. He’s smart enough to see this as more than a hot dog stand and to study what’s already out there.
When he thought about merchandise, he looked to Hard Rock Café and thought, “why invent the wheel twice?” and came up with his own shirts – one for purchase and one hard-earned.
Since I accept dares as I travel the world and, while in Stockholm, was dared to go try the “hottest hot dog in the world,” I was in for the Harakiri. While I don’t personally totally love exceptionally spicy foods, I was up for the challenge.
But one thing I’ve learned while taking dares all over the world is that they’re best done with great company; so I solicited some friends in the city and had a band of brothers answering the call with me.
To complete the Harakiri challenge, you have to do more than just eat the hot dog. You have 5 minutes to eat the entire dog and all the sauce. In that time, you can’t set it down or have anything to drink. I realized too late that my dry lips were going to be a problem.
Then Jesper donned his gas mask to cook up our dogs and I knew this was a bad idea.
One bite in and I was ready to quit [if I’m honest, I hadn’t even bitten all the way through the dog before I was ready to tap out]. But the challenge kept me in. The guys all were working away while all I could think and say was, “I need Chapstick!!!” To the non-Americans out there, that’s a lip balm.
I had too much pride to quit after one bite, but the thought of finishing the hot dog was terrifying, so what was the point of going any further? I managed another small bite. Even my toes burned.
Two of the guys bowed out and ran to find anyone selling milk or beer. I tried for a third bite, but my own breath felt like fire. I looked over and the last man standing was blazing past the 50% mark.
I could feel my face swelling already as I got a third, and so small it was barely measurable, bite. I looked over and I was the last one in. But in this story, neither the tortoise nor the hare were successful. I was out. I was still crying for lip balm. Girls headed out for a night on the town looked at me like a crazy woman as I begged them to check their purses while my lips burned. The guys were denied entry from the adjacent bars, the bouncers knowing what was likely coming next for any number of us, “you can’t come in; you’re going to puke.”
We found beers and milk and unsuccessfully searched for ice cream. Two of the guys disappeared into the night, only to be heard from the next morning, recounting their agony. Those of us who stayed got to see a more successful attempt as a diner earned his second Harakiri T-shirt.
Tears in our eyes and fire in our hearts, the four of us are now bonded forever.
So you like spicy food. You like trying “the hottest” of anything. You may want to rethink that stance before visiting Harakiri korven helldog in Stockholm and signing up for the Harakiri Dog, at least for your intestines’ sake.
Whether you decide you’re up for the full challenge of the Harakiri, want to dare your friends, or just want a tasty street meal, you’ll have to plan to do it at night. Harakari korven helldog is a proper food cart – open weeknights in the summer from 10:00 pm to 3:00 am and in the winter, hours vary (check the Facebook page for the most up to date hours).