With all the panic about the potential shut-down of the Sriracha factory in California (in case you’ve been living under a rock, the city of Irwindale has petitioned to have it closed until the company can regulate their fumes which purportedly are causing residents to suffer from burning eyes and throats and headaches), I’m coming out of the Sriracha closet. I’ve never really loved the stuff.
It’s worth noting that I consider myself a hot sauce devotee. I can barely touch eggs without some form of heat on them and when given a spicy option of 1-5 at Thai and Indian restaurants I always say 5 and add: “And by 5, I mean a real 5.” I love the Russian roulette factor of eating salted Shishito peppers; hoping I’ll finally get that one among dozens that’ll make my tongue blaze.
When I lived in Asia for a year, I depended regularly on Chile sauces in China, spicy, vinegar based concoctions in Thailand. In college, no burrito was eaten without capacious amounts of Habenero sauce. Though I matured and came to realize that hot sauces were best enjoyed as accents to meals, not full-on assaults on your taste buds that completely masked the flavors of whatever you were eating it on, I still have to check myself when confronted with anything Scotch-bonnet or Serrano based. Even Tabasco lures me at sophisticated brunches. It’s like being in a 12-Step program.
All that is to say, despite my love of hot sauces, Sriracha has never been high on my list. The main reason? It’s just too-catsup-y. The texture is too catsup-y, and the level of sweetness, to my palate, overwhelms its Chile and vinegar constituents. And it has a baby burn. To be honest, I’m shocked that the production of it is causing such terrible symptoms.
Don’t get me wrong, if it’s my only choice I’ll take it. And I do occasionally enjoy it swirled in a bowl of pho, but only if that pho has enough raw jalapenos floating in it.
I know I am so alone in this admission. My Facebook page is filled with friends figuring out, apocalypse-like, how to stock up on it fast, and recipes for making it at home are all over the internet, though I hear this one from Serious Eats might be as close as it gets. There’s even a Sriracha cookbook.
I do feel badly for friends who love it and might potentially soon be without it. But I’m hoping that an imposed vacation from it could lead to the adoption of new favorite spicy sauces, like my personal Holy Grail of hot sauce: Susie’s Original Hot Sauce, which I first tried a decade ago in Antigua and which I’ve only found in one brick and mortar store in the U.S. since – a shop in Austin, Texas. The shop had only one bottle left, the display bottle that was already opened, but I bought it from them at a discount nontheless. That’s how much I love it. You can, though, order it online. It’s the most perfect example, to my taste, of Scotch Bonnet heat being every-so-slightly curbed to allow the other flavors to come out. It’s seriously good stuff.
So Sriracha fans: stock up if you can, but while you’re at the store or buying caseloads online, give another hot sauce a chance. You might just discover the next biggest trend.