The once trendy, now ubiquitous rooster-adorned hot sauce I've now found the holy grail version of.
Welcome to ingredient, where once a month I take a deep dive into some of my favourite seasonal and store cupboard ingredients. This month I’m focusing on sriracha: the Jalapeño-based hot sauce that still remains an essential over a decade after it was considered ‘on trend’.
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I’ve been around the food internet long enough to remember when sriracha ended up in and on everything, appropriately or inappropriately so. I started blogging the year before it was named Bon Appetit’s ingredient of the year in 2010. No recipe was left untouched by the ubiquitous red stuff in the clear bottle with the white rooster and the green nozzle top.
But then we moved onto other things. Sriracha was still there, chilling in the background, waiting in the wings behind harissa, gochujang and chilli crisp, but last spring as a thank you for name-checking their classic sauce in my BBC Food recipe for Devilled Egg Potato Salad Tabasco sent me a hamper containing what was then their entire range (they have also since sent me a bottle of their new Sweet & Spicy sauce which I’ll admit to being slightly obsessed with) including their Tabasco brand sriracha.
Before I cracked the bottle open, the only sriracha I would buy was the one I considered to be the ‘authentic’ sriracha, in the aforementioned clear bottle with the green top and the white rooster made in California by Huy Fong Foods.
But Tabasco’s sriracha. It just tastes so much… better. But still like sriracha. It has made me excited to talk about and to cook with sriracha all over again after years of reaching for some of the more recently hyped hot sauces that were to hand. Even J wants to put it on everything, and he does not even like sriracha.
I’ve lost count of the free samples of things (So. Many. Condiments.) I’ve been handed in my years as a food writer, but I think this is one of the few times a freebie has actually influenced my buying habits. And do you know what? I think it is also a healthy reminder that brand loyalty is not always what it is cracked up to be. Stepping into the kitchen to actually take stock of the ‘essentials’ I now always have to hand that I first discovered as a press sample, my jar of Bonne Maman Chocolate Hazelnut Spread also caught my eye. I’m sorry Nutella fans, but the Bonne Maman version is also so much better than the original.
What is sriracha?
A Thai-style hot sauce created by David Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant living in California with a chilli base of fresh red jalapeños, boosted with garlic powder. The lack of colourings in the sauce is why each Huy Fong-produced bottle of original sriracha is a slightly different colour, and why it discolours a bit over time, as you can see from the end of my bottle in the pictures.
Their factory is in Irwindale, California and it is important that I tell you this so I can link you to a great behind the scenes post from when you could tour it pre-pandemic (how much a bottle expands once it is filled is pretty wild), and so I can direct you to read about how the city of Irwindale sued Huy Fong on behalf of its residents who claimed the factory was making everything stink of chilli. I imagine this to be a slightly less pleasant version of how if you walk near the Tate & Lyle sugar factory in East London the air sometimes genuinely smells of their Golden Syrup.
My now beloved Tabasco sriracha has a pretty much identical ingredient list to Huy Fong’s, but with added original Tabasco for extra flavour, and extra kick, and in my book, extra deliciousness.
Obviously, my main use for sriracha is as a condiment anywhere I want a hit of Asian-inspired spice and I’m not reaching for my jar of White Mausu’s Black Bean Rayu instead. Fried rice is what I mainly drizzle it over, often with a good amount of Kewpie mayonnaisetoo. But, I also find it is the best hot sauce to pair with Fried Green Tomatoes, what I want to combine with yet more Kewpie to make a sriracha mayo for my fried chicken sandwiches, to top kimchi-loaded hot dogs, and to bring the heat in my Pinterest-popular Spicy (Tinned) Tuna Rolls. Oh, and because I have a devilled egg recipe for every occasion, a little finishing squidge is essential to my Asian-inspired Devilled Egg recipe.
Kicking things off with this months recipes, my Air Fryer Hot Honey Chicken Wings are the natural successor to last months Hot Honey Roasted Sprouts. I mentioned then that the sauce would make delicious wings, and it turns out with a little care to the ingredients (just like I want you to get picky about your sriracha, you’ll also want to use the best honey you have to hand here) it really, really does.
Since making chicken wings in the air fryer for the first time and seeing how the gadget yielded crispy skin and juicy meat I’ve never again made them another way, but if you don’t have one (get on that) use your favourite oven method before tossing them in the sauce.
My Egg, Bacon & Sriracha Breakfast Bagels hark from a brilliant breakfast bagel from my favourite place outside Beigel Bake on Brick Lane in London to get a bagel: King Baby Bagels in Newcastle’s Grainger Market. Most of the times I’ve been my order has been an everything bagel (obviously) with lox and a fat slice of tomato, schmeared with either their pretty pink garlic and beetroot cream cheese (delicious, but you’ll have garlic breath for the rest of the day!) or with their pimped caper and red onion cream cheese. But, on day two of bagel consumption on my last trip up to the Toonwhen I slipped out of our hotel room early before dressing up as a wedding guest I wanted something more I'm-going-to-be-talking-to-loads-of-people-later friendly. Meet their egg and bacon breakfast bagel.
I know it does not look like much, but this bagel I wolfed down in the market before fetching some coffee to take back to the room was one of the best breakfast bagels I’ve ever had. To my surprise the egg came abundant and chopped in a loose mayo, the bacon was crisp, obviously their handmade bagels are excellent, but it was the generous serving of sriracha I was offered and of course accepted that took this to the next level. My effort only scratches the surface of this breakfast sandwiches’ brilliance, but it is a worthy tribute for those of us who can’t seek breakfast in Newcastle every morning.
Finally, we’re moving onto lunch (or a fun family dinner), and leaning into the fact I always crave sushi or poke in January with an at-home version of Temaki, the filling-stuffed hand rolls I always used to order from Temakeria Yoobi when we lived in London (and happily who had ghost kitchens nearby when we lived both in Fulham and East Dulwich - an old search through Deliveroo conformation emails tells me that my go-to order used to be the Spicy Tuna Temaki, the Citrus Salmon, and a seaweed salad, showing that when done right Temaki are quite filling).
I’ve cooked the salmon in these so we can make the most of the crispy, crunchy salmon skin as a bonus add-in, and I also think they’d make a fun build-your-own dinner option so you don’t have to worry about rolling them yourself!
I’ve explained that Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese mayonnaise made with just the yolks rather than the whole egg, and with rice vinegar and a touch of MSG so many times in these footnotes a Kewpie edition of ingredient will be coming soon so I’ll be able to link to that instead!
How residents of Newcastle and Gateshead refer to their city in the local slang / dialect.
Hard agree on the Bonne Maman chocolate spread - PLUS it’s palm oil free
I am “totally stoked” (in OG California surfer lingo), to swap out the California rooster sauce for Tabasco’s sriracha! Thank you for enlightening us.