What’s the big deal about Sriracha?

(Image Credit: Paul Narvaez)

(Image Credit: Paul Narvaez)

These days, “sriracha” has become the Kleenex of the hot sauce world. Just like you ask for a Kleenex, not a tissue, when you sneeze, suddenly it’s “Pass the sriracha!” instead of “Pass the hot sauce!” Today, while having lunch with a small group of coworkers, one insisted that we needed to procure an additional bottle of sriracha because one full bottle was apparently not enough for our group of six.

So, what’s the deal with sriracha? Why, all of the sudden, is it a thing? I’ll be honest with you: I have no clue. But I’m willing to do a little research.

The most obvious distinction between sriracha and other hot sauces is its Thai roots. In fact, the name “sriracha” was derived from the city of Si Racha, Thailand. Historically it has been used as a dipping sauce for Thai seafood, and in the US you probably saw your first bottle on the table of a Chinese or Thai restaurant. It probably wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude that the rise in popularity of Sriracha is directly related to a similar rise in popularity (and availability) of Thai food.

The thing is, these days sriracha is everywhere, not just Thai restaurants. You know a condiment has gone mainstream when Pizza Hut, Subway and Jack in the Box all offer it. There’s an important distinction to make, though: people aren’t freaking out about sriracha, strictly speaking. They’re freaking out about Huy Fong Foods’ version of sriracha – the brand with the signature rooster on the bottle.

It might seem like sriracha’s popularity happened very suddenly, but it’s actually been brewing slowly for the past 30 years. Restaurants like Huy Fong’s sriracha because it apparently lasts forever without spoiling, so it became a staple on restaurant tables over the past few decades. As it became more widely available in restaurants, something about the sweet-garlicky-hot Huy Fong recipe caught the allegiance of tastebuds across the country. The logo itself was also a selling point, as the distinct rooster rooster logo is immediately recognizable and perfect for slapping on T-shirts; further perpetuating people’s awareness of sriracha.

Not everyone is on the sriracha bandwagon, though. The city of Irwindale, California recently deemed a nearby sriracha factory a public nuisance for the horrible scent emanating from its vents. And if you’re like me and you’re not a fan of super spicy food to begin with, the sriracha obsession might be a bit of a head-scratcher for you.  But for every skeptic, there’s a sriracha enthusiast out there trolling the web for things like 28 Mouthwatering Ways to Put Sriracha on Everything.

Whether you’re a sriracha skeptic or a srirachaholic, hopefully now you at least know a little bit more about this particular kind of special sauce.

Image courtesy of Paul Narvaez

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