Sriracha: The Color of My Heart
Miami Beach, United States
Simply one of the unbridled joys a layover in the United States offers up is a chance to indulge in my favorite hot sauce: Sriracha—affectionately known to my friends and I as red rooster, or the laughably crude cock sauce.
I take great pleasure in turning most any foodstuff a bright red with the delicious chili paste, or using it with other sauces when marinating meat.
The Wikipedia article on red rooster is pretty informative, and I'm quite upset that I've been in Thailand as many times as I have, yet never knew the namesake (and more) of my hot chili sauce of choice came from the country:
Sriracha is the generic name for a hot sauce from Thailand. It is named after the seaside city of Si Racha, where it was first produced as a local product. It is made from sun-ripened chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt.
The US brand from Huy Fong Foods is often left out on the table at restaurants all day and contains sodium bisulfite as a preservative. Thai people often find the American brand perplexing, as Sriracha was originally and is still often thought of as unique brand from that town, not a type of sauce. Thai grocery stores carry the authentic Thai version, which usually has no preservatives and is refrigerated after opening.
Both Thai and non-Thai version have hot, sweet and spicy flavors; however, Thai Sriracha sauce generally has a sweeter or more tangy flavor and a smoother texture. The American (and similar versions) are often chunkier, with a texture similar to ketchup. This is sometimes used as a condiment for phở, along with hoisin sauce. It is never used on noodles or soups in Thailand; instead it is used as a dipping sauce, particularly for seafood (usually clams). It is also used as a general-purpose hot sauce, especially with Asian foods. In California it is commonly put on french fries and pizza. It is sometimes used as a sauce for buffalo wings or combined with parmesan cheese on hot popcorn. This sauce also appears frequently as a condiment that sushi chefs, especially in the United States, often use for sushi rolls.
When Huy Fong Foods started business, it produced its first chili sauce, Pepper Saté Sauce, by hand. The sauce was developed by the company's founder, David Tran, a Vietnamese farmer who had grown chili peppers, produced, and sold this sauce in his native country before arriving in the United States. The company is named for the boat that took Tran to Hong Kong in 1978, and its rooster logo comes from the fact that Tran was born in the Year of the Rooster.
Sriracha is easily recognized by its bright red color and its packaging: a clear plastic bottle with a green cap, text in six languages (Vietnamese, English, Thai, Chinese, Spanish and French), and the rooster logo. The bottles' trademark green top symbolizes the freshness of the chili used (the Serrano pepper, a type of chili pepper that originated in the mountainous regions of the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo).
So now I feel more than compelled to taste the authentic Thai Sriracha sauce—preferably on my next visit back to Thailand. I can't wait.