Sriracha sauce has become a culinary phenomenon. It’s a little spicy, a little sweet, a little tangy and a little savory all wrapped up into a vibrant red sauce. Many people have tried it, many restaurants serve it, but few know a lot about it.
At this point, just about everyone has heard of Sriracha hot sauce. A blend of red chilies, vinegar, garlic, sugar and spices, Sriracha sauce is both hot and haute, as it finds its way into more A-list events than a movie star and more five-star dishes than a celebrity chef. Still, there’s a lot to learn about this sauce.
1. Why’s it called Sriracha?
Good question. According to the documentary Sriracha, the name comes from the sauce’s home village of Si Racha, Thailand, where it was invented in the 1930s by a woman named Thanom Chakkapak. She wanted a sauce that tasted amazing with the seafood from her home village.
2. There are several types of Sriracha sauce.
While Sriracha sauce can trace its lineage back to the 1930s, what Thanom Chakkapak created was actually a little different than what Americans call Sriracha sauce. Her sauce was thinner and sweeter, and the U.S.-produced version, by necessity, is made from vastly different chilies. The original version uses Thai peppers, while the American strictly uses red jalapeños grown near Sriracha’s U.S. factory.
3. Beware Tabasco’s version.
Many companies have tried to capitalize on Sriracha sauce’s popularity by producing imitators, including Tabasco brand. Don’t be fooled. Green cap, bright red color, white rooster — that’s genuine American Sriracha sauce, which is what you want even if it’s not genuine Thai Sriracha sauce.
4. Sriracha sauce is an astronaut.
Several years ago, Sriracha sauce blasted into space after NASA decided the spicy condiment was perfect for tongues deadened by the altitudes of space.
5. Where’d the rooster picture come from?
Founder of Huy Fong Foods, producer of American Sriracha sauce, David Tran’s Chinese zodiac sign is the rooster. So, according to the Sriracha documentary, Tran asked a street artist to draw a rooster, which later ended up on the bottle.
Tran has not spoken with the artist since and has forgotten his name.
6. By the way, did you know its nickname is cock sauce?
We really, really, really hope it’s because of the rooster image. If not, we don’t want to know.
7. Huy Fong Foods doesn’t market Sriracha sauce.
Sriracha sauce is so popular that Huy Fong Foods doesn’t need to market its product. The world found out about it and continues to push the product for the company.
8. Sriracha sauce is often said to improve everything, even glue.
And there’s a video to prove it.
9. Still, Sriracha sauce is not America’s favorite condiment, no matter what they say.
Sriracha sauce sells about 20 million bottles a year. In contrast, Heinz ketchup alone sells 11 billion packets of ketchup each year. Plus, if you search for condiments or sauces on Google or Amazon, Sriracha sauce is not the top result. According to Amazon, the most relevant result for sauce is plain tomato sauce. The most relevant result for condiments — when you get down to actual condiments — is the traditional blend of Heinz ketchup, mustard and relish.
Still, not all hope is lost. Three music videos pop up if you search for “sriracha music video,” while ketchup has only two.
10. Despite its reputation for fieriness, it’s only about 2,000 Scoville units.
That makes it less hot than a jalapeño. Still, somehow the spicy sauce manages to produce some pretty fantastic flames without trying too hard.
11. McDonald’s serves Sriracha sauce (and will put it on strawberry pie).
Chalk this up to a big internet rumor, but McDonald’s does sell Sriracha sauce. It also serves strawberry pie. The jump to Sriracha-strawberry pie, while terrifying and disgusting, isn’t too far.