Friday, March 25, 2011

INGREDIENT ESSENTIALS - Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
This week, I'm going to start a new feature where I will discuss one of the things we consider an essential must have in the kitchen pantry or fridge. 

Oh, dear, wonderful, Sriracha Chili Sauce, how do we love thee?  How did we go through life without ever trying you?

I'll be the first to admit, I'm not a big hot sauce lover.  I know, sacrilege, but still, I'll occasionally use Tabasco, it's got such a unique taste, but the rest of them that are out there all seem the same, hot, hotter, and OMG!  I never bothered to try this now famous sauce, sometimes also called by it's nickname of "Rooster Sauce" (the symbol on the label) thinking, "how different can it really be?"  Boy, how wrong was I.  This stuff is great!  I bought it originally because it was an essential ingredient in a recipe for Five Spice Pork (will post that later!)  The recipe came out great, and I have to give alot of that credit to the Sriracha.

You have probably seen this sauce, in its ubiquitous plastic squeeze bottle, with green spout and the rooster on the front.  This chili sauce was created by a gentleman who was producing it and selling it in his home country of Vietnam before immigrating to the United States in 1980.  Not long after, he opened Huy Fong Foods  and started selling it.  It quickly caught on, and today, they produce almost 15 MILLION bottles annually.

It is spicy without being overly spicy.  I'm not going to lie and say it's not hot.  It is.  After all, it IS a jalapeno based chili sauce, but this doesn't seem to 'burn' and linger on your tongue or in your mouth.  It's just the right combination of slightly sweet, hot and spicy, smokey, and some other subtle, yet complex flavors....it truly does go great on everything.  A few nights ago, 2nd Man made "Migas" (a Mexican dish of eggs, tortillas and cheese, topped with avocados) and I decided to add a swirl or two of Sriracha to the top and oh my, it was great!

We've also found that when you pair it with a cheese or other sort of dairy product, it really cuts the heat that it has,  and brings out all those subtle flavors.  I like to mix it with mayonnaise, you can just decide what amount you like best, depending on how hot you want it, but I've found a 4 to 1 ratio works great (i.e. 4 TBSP mayo & 1 TBSP Sriracha) and then use the mayonnaise as you normally would.  Another thing we enjoy is mixing it into a little Philadelphia Cream Cheese and spreading it on a cracker, topped with whatever you want.  Yet another great option is to add a little bit to some Ranch Dressing, and then dip your french fries in it.  Wonderful!  You can add this to just about anything you are cooking, from soups and stews, to chilis and pasta sauces.  Even adding a TBSP or two in a batch of Marinara sauce gives it an extra zing that will leave your guests asking for the recipe.  It's so versatile, it's almost like an Asian style  version of ketchup (or is that catsup?).

I have also seen, though not tried, a similar sauce they make, it comes in a jar instead of the squeeze bottle, and has more garlic in it.  All of their sauces are made without added water or artificial colors.  That red comes straight from the pepper!  The sauce has even become so popular, it now has it's its own Facebook page with almost a quarter million friends.

It's usually found in the Asian/International food sections of most grocery stores, but is sometimes in the hot sauce section as well.  So do yourself a favor and grab a bottle next time you're at the store and try something you might never had tried before.  I think you'll enjoy it and find all sorts of uses for it.  And if you DO use it now, please share how you use it.  I love to get new ideas and try new things!


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