Move Over Ketchup; Tabasco

Sometime ago, I wrote about some of the new condiments becoming more popular on American tables and in restaurants. Sriracha is certainly one of my favorites. I have never used a hot sauce on my food as much as I have used the “rooster sauce.”  It’s not just hot, it’s also a bit sweet. There really is a complexity of flavor that nothing else can give you. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. Like Lynda Balslev, writing on NPR’s food blog, The Kitchen Window, you’ll be hooked. I know, ’cause I was before I read the following article. There’s been a lot of buzz in the food world about this Thai-inspired, American made sauce. It is all justified. I don’t know if I’d go so far as putting it on chocolate, but her Srirasha marinated chicken dish cited below sure sounds good to me.

Confessions Of A Sriracha Fanatic

by LYNDA BALSLEV

I knew I had crossed the line when one day I found myself squirting a little red sauce on dark chocolate. I looked in the mirror and took a deep breath as I wiped a trail of red sauce dribbling from my mouth.

 I have a confession. I am a sriracha sauce addict. This is a recent development. For most of my adult life, I have peaceably and obliviously coexisted with sriracha, overlooking it in the supermarket for Tabasco, excluding it in the kitchen as I made harissa, and bypassing it as I dabbled with south-of-the-border hot sauces. For no reason that I can think of, I ignored sriracha, aka rooster sauce — affectionately nicknamed for the rooster logo on the bottle.

This changed on a recent foray into San Francisco’s Chinatown, where, on an impulse, I purchased a large plastic squeeze bottle emblazoned with a flying rooster against a backdrop of fiery red sauce. I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but thank goodness I did.

I started out conservatively, adding a smidgen of sriracha to dips, or a dab to marinades for heat. I quickly realized that this was more than a one-note hot sauce. Its flavor is rounded and balanced, a magical elixir of sweet, salty, garlicky heat. Before I knew it, the rooster had me by its talons, and in a matter of weeks, I became a sriracha fiend.

The smidgens and dabs became double-fisted squeezes and dripping spoonfuls. The table was not fully set until the squeeze bottle was centrally placed between the salt and pepper shakers. I carried breath mints in my bag to mask the telltale scent of garlic on my breath. Any savory item at all hours of the day was a candidate for a squirt of sauce.

I ate sriracha on eggs and toast for breakfast, on meat and potatoes for dinner. Sriracha showed up in soups, sauces and dressings. It coated grains, vegetables and rice. Nothing to douse with a little sriracha? Nonsense. Even when the refrigerator was bare and meals unplanned, a little smear adorning a slice of bread called itself a snack.

I knew I had crossed the line when one day I found myself squirting a little red sauce on dark chocolate. I looked in the mirror and took a deep breath as I wiped a trail of red sauce dribbling from my mouth. At that moment, I realized I had transformed from a sriracha-ignorant food snob into a full-blown rooster addict. Hello, my name is Lynda and I am addicted to sriracha. There: I said it.

So what is at the root of all of this fuss? Traditional sriracha, named for a town in the Chonburi Province of central Thailand, is a hot chili paste used as a condiment. The sriracha that we know in the U.S. — the one with the rooster — is an inspired version of the Thai sauce with an American spin, created by David Tran, founder of Huy Fong Foods of Rosemead, Calif. Tran immigrated to the U.S. in 1980 and quickly discovered a gaping hole in the Thai hot sauce market. In anticipation of demand, and to satisfy his own cravings, Huy Fong Sriracha was born.

Since then, Tran’s sriracha has managed not only to satisfy any foreseen demand from the Asian community, it’s managed to create a dedicated, if not delirious, following that crosses cultures, demographics and states.

The secret is a wondrous concoction of red jalapeno chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It is simple and pure, with no water or artificial colors, and has a depth of flavor to match its unmistakable heat. For many, myself included, it’s one-stop shopping in a squeeze bottle. But that’s my opinion. I encourage you to give it a try and see for yourself. And I’ll be waiting to greet you when you join the club.

Sriracha-Marinated Roast Chicken With Root Vegetables

 Sriracha adds fragrance and heat to the chicken and vegetables as they roast in the oven for an easy family-sized meal. Serve with couscous to soak up the pan juices.
Sriracha Marinated Roast Chicken With Root Vegetables

Photo by Lynda Balslev

Makes 6 servings

For The Marinade

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For The Roast

  • 1 3-4 pound chicken
  • 8 baby sweet peppers, or 2 bell peppers, cut in ¾-inch strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 medium yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut in 1½-inch pieces
  • 1 small cauliflower, broken into 1½-inch florets
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Rinse the chicken and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place in a large bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Coat all over the chicken, including inside the cavity and between the skin and breast meat. Transfer chicken to a roasting pan, breast-side up, leaving any excess marinade in the bowl. Add vegetables, olive oil, salt and pepper to the same bowl. Toss to coat. Scatter the vegetables around the chicken in the roasting pan. Bake in oven 30 minutes.
  4. Remove pan and, using tongs, carefully turn chicken over in pan, breast-side down. Continue roasting 20 minutes. Remove pan and turn chicken over once again, breast-side up. Continue roasting until thoroughly cooked and juices run clear from thigh when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and transfer chicken to cutting board. Tent loosely with foil and let rest 15 minutes before carving. Stir vegetables in the pan with the juices and keep warm. Serve chicken with vegetables and reserved juices.

About The Author

Lynda Balslev moved to Paris to study cooking in 1991. She returned to the U.S. 17 years later with a Danish husband, two children and previous addresses in Geneva, London and Copenhagen. During that time, she worked as a freelance food writer, caterer, cooking instructor and food editor for the Danish magazine Sphere. Currently she lives in California’s Bay Area, where she writes about food and culinary travel on her blog TasteFood, teaches cooking and is relieved to be speaking English again.

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