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Sriracha's Saucy Little Secret

By John DiGilio in Food on Jan 25, 2011 4:40PM

2011_1_DiGilio_Sriracha.jpgYou might not know how to pronounce it, but chances are good that you have seen it. If your palate is partial to spicy Asian cuisine then chances are even better that you have actually had some. We are talking about Sriracha - that bright red sauce in the plastic bottle with its crazy logo and scores of foreign characters. As its popularity grows, this hot sauce is showing up in restaurants and grocery stores everywhere. But what is Sriracha? And with its tongue-twisting name and exotic packaging, where does it come from? The answer to that last question might just surprise you.

A fiery puree of chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt, Sriracha traditionally is a Thai creation. The popular bottles with the rooster on the front and their signature green cap are, however, an almost uniquely American product. Huy Fong Foods, the maker of the Sriracha found in stores and restaurants, is a California company. Its founder, David Tran, came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam. His desire to create a sauce that his fellow expatriates could use to flavor their pho launched the sensation that is today called "Cock Sauce" by some and "Rooster Sauce" by others. Though traditionalists argue that Tran's formulation is not authentic, it does not seem to be phasing consumers. Look out Tabasco, when it comes to spicing up meals, Sriracha is literally becoming the cock of the walk.

You can find Huy Fong Sriracha in most Asian eateries these days, especially Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. It is used to give heat and kick to everything from seafood to soups to beef, chicken and even noodle dishes. Modern tastes, however, have been messing with tradition. Folks are putting Sriracha on hamburgers, eggs, and even in mixed drinks (Sriracha Bloody Mary anyone?). According to the bottle, it is even good on pizza. Admittedly, we have not tried that one . . . yet. We do have a few favorites though. The
Broiled Salmon with Ginger Shitake Glaze from puts a tangy twist on this favorite fish. The heat of NibbleDish's Ginger Garlic Vegetable Stir-Fry is perfect for a chilly day (you can leave the fish sauce out if your diet is meat-free). For something truly tasty and different, the Grilled Corn with Mayo, Sriracha and Cheese from The Chubby Vegetarian will leave your lips tingling.

Adding a little hot sauce to your recipes is a quick and easy way to spice up your life. From a warm kick on a cold day to turning a mundane meal into something that really teases the tongue, you can do a lot with just a little. In fact, with Valentine's Day just ahead, it is worth noting that some people even believe that hot sauce has aphrodisiac properties. While we cannot vouch for that claim, we can tell you that having a little Sriracha on hand is the safest and tastiest way to build a little fire in your kitchen.

Photo by Flog Folio Weekly.