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Leisure time: Is Sriracha the new ketchup?

Photo by Kay Kim

When it comes to what to put on French fries, I thought I would be a ketchup loyalist. Ketchup is the rare sauce that can complement a wide variety of food. But now, there’s a different condiment on my plate, one that I will confess to dipping my fries in every now and then. This sauce is, of course, Sriracha.

Sriracha sauce isn’t new, but its profile is increasing, and this rise to popularity — from a Sriracha connoisseur’s point of view — is rightful and deserved. In order to understand the phenomenon, it’s important to start at the source.

Sriracha is a type of hot sauce made from chilies and is named after the Thai city of Si Racha, where it originates. In America, however, it is best known as “rooster sauce” packaged in a green-tipped bottle that is made by Huy Fong foods.

Huy Fong Foods is sitting on a gold mine; Sriracha is seeping into the consciousness of even the most casual sauce user.

“The company has continued to increase production every year, but still never being able to keep up with demand,” Huy Fong’s website reads.

Junior Giang Le, who helps run an online business selling Asian foods, says Sriracha is his best-selling item. His business sells, on average, 200 cases (2,400 bottles) of the sauce per month.

One needs only to look around campus to see the popularity firsthand. Sriracha is available at all the UW food trucks, which serve everything from burritos to barbecue, as well as at The 8 in McMahon.

Devin Carey, manager of the Sigano’s and Curbside 8 food trucks on the UW campus, is a witness to the Sriracha trend.

“We generally go through about a bottle per day,” Carey said. “People sometimes ask me to pump their burritos full of it. It’s as if they don’t want to taste their food.”

Freshman Kevin Kwong could be one of those people. He has used Sriracha all his life, putting it on everything, including noodles, potstickers, burritos, and various meats.

“It just gives a good kick to any type of food,” he said, referring to the “kick” that is sometimes known as the “Sriracha burn.”

Personally, for years I’ve been adding Sriracha to ramen noodles for much-needed flavor, but I’ve recently found Sriracha to be a fine remedy for most any kind of bland cooking — breakfast, lunch, or dinner. As I continue to find new uses, my tolerance for the heat has increased. It’s now reached a nearly frightening level; my taste buds regard the heat as completely natural, like water to a fish.

Sriracha lovers like Kwong and me understand the value of Sriracha, especially to the lazy and budget-constrained chef. The mainstream, however, may be fully catching on to this miracle condiment as well.

Bon Appetit recently published an article containing 25 ways to use Sriracha. Recipes include Sriracha spaghetti, Sriracha mayo, Sriracha egg salad sandwiches, and bloody marys with Sriracha. Bon Appetit has provided credible grounds to my suspicions: Sriracha might taste good on just about everything.

“I once tried it on ice cream,” Kwong said. “It was actually okay. It was interesting.”

I don’t think I’m ready to replace my bottle of chocolate sauce with Sriracha — for the time being, at least. On most everything else, however, Sriracha has found a place in my heart. It’s now the only condiment I own, beating out ketchup for that coveted spot in my refrigerator door.

Reach contributing writer Carl David Allen at development@dailyuw.com.

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