A Rooster’s Wake-Up Call

Sriracha hot sauce

Walk into almost any professional kitchen in America and you’re bound to find it somewhere: a crimson bottle with a viridescent tip, a bold rooster emblazoned on the front. But Sriracha, the badass Thai-style hot sauce, isn’t in these kitchens because chefs serve it to customers (though I’d bet it finds its way into more restaurant dishes than we know). It’s there because cooks put this stuff on everything they eat. And so should you.

Perhaps truer words were never written than the blurb that adorns the back of each bottle:

Sriracha, made from sun ripened chiles, is ready to use in soups, sauces, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chow mein or on anything to add a delicious, spicy taste.

It’s that “delicious, spicy taste,” with its hint of exoticism, that sets this stuff apart. It’s really only four ingredients: chiles, garlic, vinegar, and sugar. But that combination (with some salt and preservatives thrown in for good measure) is far greater than the sum of its parts. Go ahead and put it on pizza. Put it on a burger. Put it on any old thing, and that thing—empanadas, a plate of scrambled eggs, whatever—will turn into something gloriously, fabulously new. Sriracha imparts heat, sure. But it also imparts greatness.

A bit of history: Sriracha is, like Champagne in France, a region. And in Thailand, one can get different sauces from Sriracha, just as one can get different wines from Champagne. In fact, if you hunt around, you can get those sauces here, too.

But where’s your patriotism, man? You see, the stuff with the rooster on the bottle, the stuff you see in all the kitchens, is a wholly American product. It’s made by Huy Fong Foods, proud California-based owners of the American trademark on the brand name Sriracha. And like every great creation of the melting pot, the Huy Fong brand takes what’s great about the original and Americanizes it—it’s a little less spicy, a little more familiar. It’s also far hipper.

After all, how many condiments have their own nicknames? Ketchup? No. Mustard? Not a chance. But Sriracha? In a nod to its bottle many connoisseurs simply call it “cock sauce,” a name that is as bawdy and virile as the sauce itself.

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