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Sriracha sauce is a hot commodity in the kitchen

Sriracha used to be one of those "secret" ingredients chefs liked to keep under wraps. Years ago it was that special "hidden" flavor booster that gave sauces zip, added punch to mayonnaise, and provided a fiery undertow to batters and broths.

But now the use of that fireball red chili sauce (in the green-cap bottle with the rooster emblem) is nearly as ubiquitous as salt and pepper, and chefs proudly proclaim their love of it. Not only is it omnipresent in restaurant kitchens, it's in the home refrigerators of many chefs who use the chili elixir in their family cooking. And now it has invaded the American pantry.

So what is sriracha and why is it so popular? That's the subject of The Sriracha Cookbook: 50 'Rooster Sauce' Recipes That Pack a Punch by Randy Clemens (Tenspeed Press, 2011).

The hot chili paste we know as sriracha can be traced to Sri Racha, a seaside city in the Chonburi province of Thailand where the sauce is made with peppers, garlic, vinegar, sugar and salt. The sriracha that most of us know is an Americanized version of the sauce created in the early 1980s by Vietnamese immigrant David Tran in Los Angeles.

Tran's company, Huy Fong (named for the freighter that took him from his homeland), produces the most prevalent and recognizable sriracha. Although several other brands made in Thailand can be found in American Asian grocery stores, Huy Fong dominates the market.

It has held Clemens in spicy thrall since he first tasted it. "I fell in love with it 12 years ago and I'd bring bottles to friends' houses to help spread the gospel," said the food writer who is a graduate of the California School of Culinary Arts. "I started thinking about writing the book and got looking into the backstory. It was fascinating."

Tran's Huy Fong success story has been well documented. It truly is an example of great word of mouth, Clemens said, explaining how Tran made a Vietnamese-style pepper sauce he sold to Asian restaurants and markets in Los Angeles. "People started taking bottles home or swiping them from Vietnamese noodle shops. It just started spreading."

Eventually Huy Fong sriracha could be found in Walmart and was featured on cooking challenges on Top Chef. It's now a fairly common condiment, right up there with salsa, ketchup and mustard. Huy Fong produces more than 14 million bottles a year.

Chefs are still finding novel uses for sriracha. Clemens said he's constantly on the prowl for great ideas. In his cookbook are sriracha pesto, sriracha green beans, sriracha cole slaw, sriracha tuna tartare, sriracha gazpacho, sriracha chilaquiles, sriracha and Spam fried rice, sriracha corn bread, sriracha macaroni and cheese, sriracha lamb kebabs, sriracha carne asada and sriracha and peach sorbet.

Sriracha's widespread acceptance is exciting to Clemens. The sauce's pleasing chili sting has opened a window to other spicy Asian flavors.

"For me, it's a definite expansion into more spicy foods," he said. "I'm still a wuss. It's not like I can take it any better, but I can enjoy it. And I crave it."

We know what you mean.

>>MODERATE

Homemade Sriracha

1 3/4 pounds red jalapeno peppers, stems removed and halved lengthwise

3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons garlic powder, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon light-brown sugar

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar, plus more as needed

Water, as needed

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the peppers, garlic, garlic powder, granulated sugar, salt and brown sugar. Pulse until a coarse puree forms. Transfer to a glass jar, seal and store at room temperature for 7 days, stirring daily.

After 1 week, pour the chili mixture into a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the vinegar and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool, then puree in a food processor for 2 to 3 minutes until a smooth, uniform paste forms. If the mixture is too thick to blend properly, add a little water.

Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Press on the solids with the back of a spoon to squeeze out every last bit of goodness. Adjust the seasoning and consistency of the final sauce, adding additional vinegar, water, salt, granulated sugar or garlic powder to suit your taste. Transfer to a glass jar, seal and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Makes about 2 cups.

Source: The Sriracha Cookbook: 50 'Rooster Sauce' Recipes That Pack a Punch by Randy Clemens (Tenspeed Press, 2011).



>>MODERATE

Sriracha Slaw

Dressing:

1/3 cup chunky natural peanut butter

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup fresh pineapple juice or fresh orange juice

1/4 cup sriracha

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon ginger paste

2 tablespoons sugar

Slaw:

1 1/2 pounds napa cabbage, shredded

1/2 pound red cabbage, shredded

2 carrots, peeled and julienned

2 red bell peppers, seeded and julienned

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

6 green onions, white part only, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Coarsely chopped fresh Thai basil for garnish

Lime slices, for garnish

To make the dressing, in a medium bowl, combine peanut butter, lime juice, pineapple juice, sriracha, garlic, fish sauce, ginger paste and sugar. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the slaw, in a large bowl, mix together the cabbages, carrots, bell peppers, jalapeno, green onions, cilantro and mint. Add the dressing and toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with basil and lime. Serve immediately to retain crunch.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Source: The Sriracha Cookbook: 50 'Rooster Sauce' Recipes That Pack a Punch by Randy Clemens (Tenspeed Press, 2011).



>>EASY

Sriracha Ceviche

1 1/2 pounds seafood, diced (such as shrimp, scallops, yellowtail, tilapia or kampachi)

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 to 3 medium tomatoes, diced

1 large red onion, diced

2 Persian cucumbers, diced

1 ear fresh sweet corn, kernels only

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup sriracha

1 cup tomato juice or V8 vegetable juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the seafood with the lime and orange juices. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally, until the flesh becomes firm and opaque, about 3 hours.

Add the tomatoes, onion, cucumbers, corn, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, oil, sriracha and tomato juice, stirring to combine. Cover and refrigerate for another 30 to 60 minutes to allow flavors to marry. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in chilled bowls or martini glasses, garnished with sliced avocado and cilantro.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Source: The Sriracha Cookbook: 50 'Rooster Sauce' Recipes That Pack a Punch by Randy Clemens (Tenspeed Press, 2011).

Sriracha sauce is a hot commodity in the kitchen 03/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:30am]

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