Sriracha Chili Sauce
Sriracha (sree-RAH-cha) used to only be found tableside at Thai or Vietnamese restaurants, but now this sweet and spicy sauce has found fans who are using it to flavor and intensify other dishes, whether everyday or gourmet.
It provides tang to spicy buffalo wings and a warm glow to a dipping sauce for golden calamari at Jackson & Wheeler in Pleasantville. It makes a citrus emulsion for bluefin tuna with rice-cracker crust pop at Perry Street in Manhattan. And a dash of it enlivens a cool cucumber-and-melon soup at Riingo in Manhattan.
“It’s not super spicy, but it has a little kick to it, a little bite to it,” Walsh says of the sriracha remoulade served with calamari at Jackson & Wheeler. She gets it to go and serves it with shrimp cocktail even carrot sticks.
“I can’t leave any of it in the container,” she confesses.
Gregory Gilbert, a chef and partner at the restaurant, also uses sriracha mayonnaise to pep up sandwiches such as a grilled salmon BLT and a roast beef wrap with fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers.
He credits the Italian classic Fra Diavolo, a spicy tomato sauce that gets its heat from red pepper flakes, as the inspiration for his rosy remoulade, which he describes as a cross between Fra Diavolo and garlic aioli.
“The remoulade has a mayonnaise base which is basically eggs and oil, which gives a nice texture,” he says. “And the heat of the sriracha cuts the fat nicely.”
But it seems any hot sauce could do that. Why not use Tabasco or some other chili sauce? In a word: subtlety.
Aficionados prefer the lingering sweetness of sriracha, which comes from sun-ripened chili peppers as well as garlic and sugar. (Other hot sauces have a more vinegary bite.) Others note that the heat of sriracha is mellower and milder than more aggressive chili pepper sauces. Still others like the thick, smooth consistency, not unlike ketchup, which makes it easy to dot the top of burgers or other fun foods.
Vince Risi of Croton-on-Hudson always asks for an extra order of sriracha remoulade with his calamari at Jackson & Wheeler. He says that the combination is one of his favorites, and describes the taste as “salty and hot at the same time.”
And though Riingo chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Johan Svensson have temporarily retired their summery cucumber soup in favor of warmer, heartier fare, no doubt sriracha will make an appearance in other dishes, such as the classic spicy tuna roll.
But there is no reason for sriracha to be used only by chefs. In fact, the mild, sweet heat of sriracha makes it ideal for home cooks, even those who don’t consider themselves to be chili-heads. It’s an easy mix with mayonnaise (see Gilbert’s remoulade recipe, below), ketchup, or other condiments.
“Sriracha has a good heat to it, but it’s got flavor also,” says Gilbert. “To me, Tabasco is just straight hot. Sriracha is a very hot, flavorful sauce. There is a little sweetness to it, it still tastes like peppers, but very hot.”
Gilbert pauses. “Speaking of which, where is mine? I haven’t seen my sriracha around.”
What it is…
Sriracha (sree-RAH-cha) is named for Sriracha Harbor, the largest private port on the eastern coast of Thailand, not far from Bangkok.
This sweet chili condiment, which some have nicknamed “Thai ketchup,” is often found on the tables of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. The two most commonly-found brands are Huy Fong, which sports a white rooster on the label, and Shark. (Supposedly, the shark is in homage to the shark-infested waters off the coast of Sriracha).
Shark brand is made in Thailand and is used widely there as well as imported to U.S. stores and restaurants. Huy Fong is made in California by a Vietnamese immigrant, David Tran, and is the U.S. favorite.
Both brands have similar ingredients: chili peppers (usually red jalapeno peppers), sugar, garlic, vinegar, salt, xanthan gum and sometimes preservatives (potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfate).
The following recipes were adapted from Greg Gilbert, Jackson & Wheeler.
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sriracha
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Whisk together until smooth. Serve as a dipping sauce with fried calamari rings.
1/2 cup calamari
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup semolina
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Soak calamari rings in milk for about 20 minutes; drain.
In a bowl, combine the flour and semolina. Dredge the calamari in the flour mixture, and shake off the excess.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees, and fry the calamari until golden brown.
Season with salt and pepper and serve with Sriracha Remoulade.
Sriracha Spicy Buffalo Wings
6 chicken wings
Oil for frying
3 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1 tablespoons sriracha
1 tablespoons butter, softened
Baby mache or other lettuce to garnish
Fry the chicken wings until crispy. In a bowl, combine the red-hot sauce, sriracha, and butter. Toss the wings in the sauce and serve. Garnish with baby mache or other lettuce