Sriracha sauce – the spicy legacy of South Asia
What is Sriracha?
Contrary to what you might think, Sriracha isn’t a brand of sauce, it’s a style of sauce. There is much debate around the origins of Sriracha, but we can confidently trace the original recipe back to 1949 and a woman called Thanom Chakkapak resident of Si Racha, Thailand. Chakkapak knocked up a batch of her sauce and added it to everything she cooked in her small, neighbourhood restaurant. Word soon spread around her vecinity and everyone was rocking up just to get a taste of the spicy elixir. Thanom then started selling the product down her local market to great fanfare and admiration.
The ingredients of Sriracha sauce
The ingredient list includes chillies (I suspect red bird’s eye or red jalapeños given the taste and its region of provenance), spirit vinegar, sugar and salt. Given the taste there’s some ginger and garlic going on there and, in the Thai version at least, there’s some lime going on in there. Overall it’s a pretty good bet and has a great balance of sweet, salty and hot. For heat heads, the 1k – 2.5k Scoville scale ensures that it will satisfy your picant cravings.
The sauce was brought into the USA by David Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant living in the USA, who started Huy Fong Foods USA (which translates to ‘gathering prosperity’) and he started producing the sauce in his factory in San Francisco. The famous brand is known as ‘Rooster’ or ‘Cock’ sauce (no sniggering in the back) due to the magisterial looking cockerel depicted on the bottle. The sauce has now become ubiquitous and sells around 20 million bottles per year. Brands as famous as MacDonald’s and KFC have produced their own version. The Huy Fong Food brand also makes a Sriracha Mayo which is great for giving a pleasant zing to sandwiches and burgers without excessive heat.
Uses for Sriracha hot sauce
The original Sriracha is especially great with Thai or Chinese food, as being perfect for dipping fries, nachos and chicken. One of my favourite recipes is Sriracha special fried rice. Use leftover rice (it must be cold!) for this wonderful dish. Heat a wok (or frying pan) and add some oil (sunflower or peanut). Then add some chopped garlic and then some fresh prawns (shrimp). Ove they are cooked through, add some thinly sliced onions. Once they have softened add the rice and give it a toss to ensure all the grains are glossy, Make a well in the rice and crack in an egg and scramble it with the back of a spoon. Then whack is some soy sauce and some Sriracha. Add some chopped ham and some peas and you’re good to go.
Fun fact: In 2013 residents of the town where the factory is located complained of eye irritation, headaches, heartburn, sore throats, and other issues. They blamed it on chili emissions. Huy Fong stated that ‘they are probably the kind of people who don’t season their food, but who knows?’.