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I Spice: Sriracha

Sriracha, a sauce with staying power. (Michael Lutzky/The Washington Post)

As I recently perused a chef’s Top 10 list of favorite ingredients, his No. 9 caught my attention: Sriracha, known to its admirers as "rooster sauce" for its bird on the label, or as the list noted, the world’s best condiment. I couldn’t agree more.

Recipe Included

The hot and spicy sauce, originally from Thailand, contains the sharp flavors of chili, vinegar and garlic, with a tiny bit sugar for contrasting sweetness. Its uses are limited only by your imagination, and I rounded up suggestions for using Sriracha sauce that may surprise you.

If you don’t like your dishes hot, walk away now.

I got in touch with the featured chef, Joel Harrington of CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar at the Ritz-Carlton in Dove Mountain, Ariz., who verified his fondness for Sriracha. We compared notes; neither he nor I have ever attempted to prepare it at home. (Why mess with perfection?) Our favorite brand, hands-down, is the one made in Rosemead, Calif., with the rooster on the bottle. While it is often compared with the Malaysian sambal as the chef so aptly put it, “Sriracha is Sriracha.”

Here's how Harrington uses it:

* as a component in marinades for meat and fish.
* added to salad dressings (honey-soy, Asian-style vinaigrettes).
* in egg dishes and fried rice
* as a soup garnish
* in dips for raw vegetables

I Spice readers and Sriracha lovers chimed in with many more ways:

* "In breakfast burritos with sausage, eggs and potatoes" -- Stephanie Stiavetti

* "Flour tortilla warmed on a griddle, rubbed with butter and drizzled with Sriracha. Yum." -- Jill O'Connor

* "Add it to everything from egg rolls to Thai chicken dishes." -- Nina Japanwalla

* “I love to make a hot and sweet dip with Sriracha that’s perfect with some baked or fried tofu or potato fries: 1/4 cup orange marmalade, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon Sriracha. Just mix it all up. It’s sweet, spicy and vinegary all at the same time.” -- Sala Kannan

* In pho, the Vietnamese soup; in homemade chicken vegetable soup along with some coconut milk; in marinades with tamari, lime juice, ginger and honey (for grilling chicken or steak); in scrambled egg; in tempeh-vegetable stir-fries. -- blogger Winnie Abramson of

* "Mix it with mayo and spread it on absolutely everything." -- Elissa Altman

* Add it to a white-sauce base for macaroni and cheese. -- Suzanne Fass

And Pim Techamuanvivit, author of the newly released "Foodie Handbook," said “I basically use it as a condiment, an all-purpose hot sauce. . . . I love it especially with fried Thai omelets -- just eggs beaten with fish sauce and fried in a lot of oil until they fluff up and crisp around the edges." She says that omelet, over white jasmine rice and a lot of Sriracha, would be her Last Meal.

You can store Sriracha in the fridge after the bottle's been opened, but don't keep it where chef Harrington once did: in his car. He told me that a bottle of Sriracha, left in the back of his Mini Cooper during a wilting Arizona summer, eventually exploded.

I've saved the most inventive use for last, also from the chef: as an air freshener. Who's willing to check that out and report back?

-- Monica Bhide

Sriracha-Spiked Sweet Potato Bisque. (Monica Bhide)

Sriracha-Spiked Sweet Potato Bisque
4 to 6 servings

Adapted from a recipe by chef Joel Harrington of the CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar at the Ritz-Carlton in Dove Mountain, Ariz.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, cut into thin slices
2 medium shallots, cut into thin slices
2 medium cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
2 tablespoons Asian-style spicy chili sauce, such as Sriracha, plus more for drizzling
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for drizzling
Maple syrup

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, shallots and garlic; stir to combine, then cover and cook until the mixture begins to soften.

Add the potatoes and enough water to cover. Increase the heat to medium-high; bring to a boil, then cook for about 30 minutes until they are tender. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the mixture to a blender in small batches, pureeing it to a soup consistency with the center knob of the blender jar removed (and the center opening covered with a dish towel) to allow steam to escape. Return the soup to the saucepan over low heat; add the cream and hot chili sauce, stirring to mix well.

Add the maple syrup and salt to taste, stirring to combine; once the soup is heated through, divide among individual bowls and serve immediately, with a drizzle of the chili sauce and cream on each portion.

Per serving (based on 6): 167 calories, 2 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 26 mg cholesterol, 205 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar

By The Food Section  |  December 18, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  I Spice , Recipes  | Tags: I Spice, Monica Bhide, Sriracha, recipes  
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I, too, am a sriracha enthusiast. It finds its' way into many of my dishes, the easiest and most common of which may surprise you.

As a kid, I detested PB & J sandwiches. To my taste, peanuts and sweet fruit are not a happy combination. I never once traded my lebanon bologna and swiss for some poor saps' jiff & smuckers'.

I take all natural peanut butter (go organic-please-peanuts grown traditionally contain huge amounts of fungicide) and mix it with fish sauce, fresh lime & sriracha. This goes on sprouted grain toast. Sometimes I have seconds.

Posted by: Bengt-Ake | December 18, 2009 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Bon Appetit has a whole article in the Jan '10 issue about Sriracha...

Posted by: Elizabeth_Terry | December 18, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful stuff. I first came across it about 40 years ago in a Chinatown tea-shop. I used to have to go down there to buy it, but now it's available nearly everywhere. If you look carefully at the bottles in some Asian markets, you still can find the real Thai-made stuff.

Other uses: Drizzle it on pizza. Mix it with melted butter and spread it on corn-on-the-cob. Same with a baked sweet potato.

Posted by: heinpe | December 20, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Sriracha on pizza--SO good. just drizzle it on in place of hot pepper flakes, and then dip the crust in.

Posted by: shhhhhh | December 21, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I've seen the huge bottles at the grocery store but have never bought one. I see now that I need to rectify this mistake as soon as possible.

Posted by: LittleRed1 | December 21, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

That dish looked good! I picked up a jar of some chili garlic sauce recently on general principles. Lo and behold, there's a rooster on the label! It looks to be the same sauce, down to the manufacturer, though says Tuong Ot Toi Viet Nam rather than Tuong Ot Toi Srichiya. Thanks for discovering something in my own cupboard!

Incidentally, have you folks thought of covering some spice blends? At various times, we've made our own Garam Masala, Berbere, and Bomba spice blends. The last of these three is used in Latin America and is essential for making tamales. I'd be interested in seeing what the Spice Girls (and Guys) could discover.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 22, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Nope. Turns out that I don't have Sriracha, but rather their chili garlic sauce. The manufacturer's web site ( doesn't say much about the difference between the two sauces, other than the chili garlic sauce is chunkier. I did, however, find a useful link from a comment on the Bon Appetit article. Less vinegary, more garlicky. For a little more on the Chili Garlic sauce, here's a link.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 23, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Not to be obsessively posting here, but I made the soup last night with a couple of modifications. I used chili garlic sauce instead of sriracha (had the former, not the latter). We had a half can of coconut milk open and I do love the combination of sweet potatoes and coconut milk. There's enough natural sweetness to the recipe (well, at least with coconut milk), that the maple syrup wasn't needed. That, a baguette and some chaumiere cheese made a comforting meal.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 24, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

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