First of all, even though Huy Fong Foods does not Trademark the name, in the name of fairness I use the word “Sriracha” just to describe the hot sauce that has become a very popular sauce in the USA. I am not aware of any other place that is as into Sriracha as the USA. Americans are getting hooked on Sriracha’s hot zesty taste as they adventurously put the sauce in many things including fried and grilled meats. Sriracha tacos and burgers will soon be on their ways to the fast-food stores near you, if not already are. I am neither related to Huy Fong Foods nor derive any profit from using that name in this blog. I use the word Sriracha to mean garlic chili sauce in general similar to the formulation described for the original Hoy Fung Foods product.
Having cleared that out of the way, I must say that I probably am one of the earliest fan of Sriracha sauce. How early was early? Well, I started to buy and enjoy Sriracha sauce made by Huy Fong Foods back in 1982 when I was still going to college at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon.
Around Corvallis, there were only two oriental grocery stores. One of them was a small friendly store around the northeast corner of the intersection of NW Circle Blvd. and NW. Kings Blvd. The owner was a very gentle, old caucasian, whose name I forgot. My apology for forgetting such as wonderful man. I am not sure if the store still exists. Another oriental store was in near the Willamette River bridge as we enter the city of Albany, Oregon, on northbound Highway 20. The owner was a young timid Vietnamese family with very little English to speak with. It was amazing that they could set up and live off of the store. This is why I love USA. Anyone who has strong motivation to work hard can survive and thrive. I went grocery shopping in both stores, because there I could find many things that I needed to cook home-cooked meals that I could not find at such grocery stores as Safeway or Fred Meyer at that time (apparently both are still in business there).
As described in one of the posts about Sriracha sauce, Sriracha sauce is basically hot chili sauce made of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. I can surely taste the spiciness of the chili and the fresh aroma of ginger in it. The distilled vinegar adds the tangy taste of the sauce. I think, of all “Sriracha” sauces around, the original Sriracha sauce made by Huy Fong Foods are the most balancedly blended. If my taste buds are correct, it does not contain MSG at all (I get bad after taste and headache after consuming MSG).
Note that even at that time, there were other chili sauces other than Sriracha sauce such as Sambal Oelek and Sambal Bajak chili sauces. Huy Fong Foods also produces what it calls garlic chili sauce. In my taste buds’ opinion, it is basically the puree version of Sriracha sauce. Sambal Oelek is similar to Sriracha, except that it is an oily version of Sriracha. Nowadays, I am sure you also can find variety of “Saus Sambal” produced by Indofood and ABC, respectively, in the nearest oriental grocery stores in USA. These two are different from the previous three in that it is sweeter and the color is more orangey compared to Sriracha.
In Indonesian, sambal means hot chili sauce and there are many kinds of sambal in Indonesia varying in hotness level, oil content, savory enhancing ingredients and other complimenting ingredients. It will take me some time to sort them out, but I think it will be an interesting endeavor.
I grew up with the garlic chili sauce. It is the condiment which my dad cannot-eat-a-meal-without. In the back of my mind, though, I wonder how he ate when he did not eat at home? Maybe it was just his way of feeling the special attention only my mom could provide. He even insisted to use the real hot Thai chili pepper in it. Consequently, my mom always had a jar of garlic chili sauce ready in the fridge.
I was so happy to find Sriracha sauce back in 1982 in a very small town of Corvallis, Oregon. Corvallis population at that time was only around 40,000 and I think half of them were just college students. The city seemed almost dead when summer break arrived.
Okay, enough walking down the memory lane. I use Sriracha sauce in many ways; I use it as for seasoning ingredient for poultry, beef, pork, seafood or lamb. I use Sriracha sauce as one of the base condiment to make fried-rice, because it gives a tangy, zesty & spicy taste to the fried-rice so that the fried-rice does not feel too greasy. I will share how I make this delicious fried-rice as well as how I use Sriracha as a base for marinade in later post. I also enjoy Sriracha as it is. It is a condiment after all. So, to spice up my stir-fry dishes, I eat it with a dab of Sriracha sauce. I don’t think there is anything bad about chili sauce other than you may get stomach ulcer from the spiciness and perhaps from the sourness if you eat too much. Fundamentally, we want to enjoy the taste and not to torture ourselves. Some people, though, are so desensitized from the spiciness that they must consume a lot of chili sauce before they can taste the spiciness. Just like any other things in life like salt and sugar, if we overeat them, we may soon become desensitized. Personally, I enjoy chili and its derivatives in moderation. I want to sin, but not too much. *please don’t boo me*
Before we start, let me alert you that we must be careful when handling hot peppers. If the skin of your palm is rather sensitive, I would recommend that you use kitchen food-serving gloves to protect you skin from the burning sensation caused by capsaicinoids, which is the collection of substances responsible for the heat effect found mostly in the membranes (placenta) and seeds in the middle of the pepper. This means that if you want to intentionally reduce the heat of the pepper in the final dish, you simply scrape off the membranes and the seeds. Just use the “meat” of the pepper.
Okay let’s get our hands dirty. Here are the ingredients that I use to make my mom’s version of Huy Fong’s garlic chili sauce
- Red Thai curly pepper (175g / 6.25 oz) : Clip the stems and chop to about 2.5 cm (1 inch) long. You can remove the seeds and the membranes (placenta) if you want it milder.
- Green chili pepper (150 g / 5.25 oz) : Clip the stems and chop to about 2.5 cm (1 inch) long. You can remove the seeds and the membranes (placenta) if you want it milder. You may substitute it with green Jalapeno.
- Garlic : 3 to 5 medium peeled cloves depending on your preference.
- Yellow onion : 1/2 of large onion chopped into 2.5 cm squares (1 inch squares). Don’t worry about chopping size as our purpose is to help the blender to blend and puree it better.
- Ginger : 2.5 cm (1 inch) skinned ginger root sliced into 3 mm (about 1/8 inch) thick slices.
- Red tomato : 1 medium size chopped into same size as the onion.
- Salt, sugar & vinegar : tailored to your taste. I prefer mine to be on the a bit salty & tangy side just like the original Sriracha sauce, but this is very subjective. My principle is tailored it to your own taste buds. I usually add the salt, sugar and vinegar gradually just to make sure I do not over season the sauce. We can always adjust the taste by adding, but reducing the over-seasoned taste is difficult, messy and frustrating.
Just as we learned from color blending in kindergarten’s drawing class (yes, I still remember my kindergarten teacher really well), the light colors of the pepper seeds and the onion will reduce the redness of the resulting sauce. Therefore, if you want the sauce to have more intense red color without adding artificial coloring, please eliminate the pepper seeds and reduce the onion. I personally prefer to have a more pale red color and keep the onion because the onion will give the unique onion-sweetness taste in the sauce.
- Combine all ingredients above in the blender and add some drinking water enough to cover almost the top of the stack.
- Run the blender on puree for a few minutes until the blend is smooth and thick.
- Transfer the thick blended sauce onto a non-stick pan and simmer it for about 20-25 minutes in the lowest stove setting possible.
- Make sure we stir the sauce often as gentle bubbles tend to rise and pop because of the evaporated water from the bottom of the pan. This bubble effect also tends to segregate the water into the edges of the pan. Hence, we need to stir it often enough.
- After about 20-25 minutes, the sauce will be thickened enough that when you gently stir the sauce, it maintains its shape and it does not flatten out again over time.
- At this point, taste the sauce and add salt, sugar & vinegar as needed.
- Let the sauce cools to room-temperature before transferring it into tightly sealed jar.
- If it is kept in sealed jar in the medium set fridge, it will usually stay good for at least a couple of week.
As I mentioned above, I use this sauce as a pure condiment with my meal or as a marinating ingredient for meats. Either way, it does add flares into my meals.