Image: Si Racha coast; sauces from left: Sriraja Panich, Huy Fong/Rooster, Flying Goose, Three Mountains, Exotic Food (USA style)
By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED MAY 29, 2023 | UPDATED MAY 31, 2023
Parts on the history of Sriracha sauce have been revised considerably (May 31, 2023) following further research into Thai-language material
Fancy a Japanese seafood omelette with “mayo spun through with sriracha”? Smoked cod head “doused in a sriracha emulsion”? How about McDonald’s sriracha-and-kale burger, described as “an aging hipster’s cry for help”? Or just sausages and brown sauce mixed with sriracha in proportions of 5:1.
Sriracha is gaining popularity among chefs and people who just enjoy their food. But what exactly is it?
First, you may have noticed that “Trade β Blog” is about trade. So this piece is not about the joys of eating or cooking with the distinctive chilli sauce. It’s about a controversial issue in trade: the use of a geographical name to identify a product. But it does include some blind tasting in the search for authenticity.
Second, you might also have noticed that all those quotes at the beginning use “sriracha” spelt with a lowercase “s”, as if it were just an ordinary noun.
In a sense it is. But Sriracha (officially Si Racha) is also very much a name. For a start, it’s a town and small port originally built around a sawmill and fishing communities, about 100km southeast of Bangkok, on the way to the resort of Pattaya and next door to what is now Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard industrial complex.
It’s the town where the sauce originally came from and where it got its name.
Later a version of the sauce was produced and marketed in the US by a Vietnamese immigrant who had nothing to do with the Thai town but achieved what is hailed as “a classic American success story”.
That success is more about marketing, financial clout and filling a gap, and perhaps less about the quality of the product (more below). Think of US Parmesan — although US Sriracha is perhaps not so bad.Continue reading “‘Sriracha’ sauce: is it what it says on the bottle?”