January 15, 2015

An in-depth look at Sriracha

Sriracha has taken the hot sauce industry by storm, a cult-like following including a documentary, tee shirts and even it's own flavor of Lays potato chips.

Diners everywhere are reaching for the clear bottle with the saucy green top to add some heat to every item on the menu. Not only has Sriracha taken over our tables, but it’s also earned a documentary, T-shirts, phone cases, a flavor of Lay’s chips and even miniature bottles for the fan who travels.

The name
The reality is you are probably saying it wrong. The proper pronunciation is “see-ra-cha,” as the first “r” is silent. Did you know that Sriracha is the type of sauce, not the brand? Hoy Fong Foods makes the well-known green-topped version of the sauce, but they’re not the only one getting in on the haute sauce revolution. Thai Kitchen, Kikkoman and even Trader Joe’s have their own versions, none quite the same as the beloved Hoy Fong recipe. The original sauce is named after the coastal Thailand city Si Racha.

The flavors
The ingredient list on a Hoy Fong version of Sriracha includes chili, sugar and garlic, among other things. Most people notice a sweet chili flavor when first eating the sauce. They then get hints of vinegar taste and are hit with the heat. Sriracha makes mouths water and noses drip, whatever you eat it with.

DIY
Business Insider set about making the popular condiment at home. Use your Texas culinary school skills to follow their recipe:

  • 8 cloves of roughly chopped garlic
  • 2 pounds of jalapeno or serrano peppers (to emulate the store-bought formula go for the red ones)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 2/3 cup distilled vinegar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of agave nectar or honey

1. Remove the tops of the peppers and slice them in half. In a food processor, pulse the peppers, membranes and seeds included, until they are smooth(around five minutes). Add salt, paprika, garlic and brown sugar and process mixture until smooth (five more minutes). Ferment the mix by pouring into a container and loosely covering it. Put it in a dark, cool place for at least 48 hours, stirring once a day. When bubbles start to appear at the bottom you know the fermentation process has started. Wait up to five days for the spiciest sauce.

2. Place the sauce in your food processor and add the vinegar. Puree for five minutes. Use a mesh sieve to press the mixture into a medium sized pot. Get all of the liquid out and discard the solids. Bring the pot full of fermented peppers to a boil and reduce the heat. Add the honey or agave nectar and simmer 8-10 minutes until thickened. Skim off the foam if you would like. Taste. Adjust as necessary. Enjoy.

Keep your newly-made Sriracha in a clear container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

(Recipe from businessinsider.com)

The debate
Some chefs find that adding Sriracha completely overtakes the flavor of the dish. They might even find it rude. Diners who love the fiery sauce say it only brings out the flavors of the dish. But is smothering your plate in hot sauce an effort to cover up the actual meal or just a way to add a little kick to every bite?

Why do we love it so?
According to Business Insider, serrano and jalapeno peppers have capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin?, which contain a protein called TRPV1. The protein triggers endorphins which are pain-killers and are also responsible for feelings of happiness. The hot sauce actually makes diners feel good.

It’s also very accessible to the masses because it ranks at a 1,000 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale, which is used to measure how spicy a food is. This means it’s just below Tabasco sauce on the spicy scale, a solid mild-to-medium sauce that many people can enjoy.

You’ve learned about Sriracha’s name and flavor, how to make it yourself and even why some people love it and some think using it is rude. Now go add some to your meal and see what you think.