Hot headed: A twist on Homemade Sriracha Sauce

How many different kinds of hot sauce are sitting in your fridge right now?
What’s one of your favorite hot sauces and what do you eat it with?

At Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant in Seattle a few years ago, my husband and I celebrated our 2-year anniversary *of dating* with an omakase dinner prepared by the Seattle sushi pioneer himself, Shiro. Being served by Shiro at the sushi bar is a famously excellent, but infamously nerve-racking experience. Shiro is rumored to size up each guest and serving them the food he deems is appropriate for their appreciation-capabilities. We definitely noticed when he served the guests sitting a few seats down the bar sea urchin, or uni (our favorite). When we requested uni, he leaned forward and in a very low voice told us “not today,” hinting that the uni wasn’t up to standard. We hope that meant Shiro-san decided we know our stuff.

Shiro Kashiba

Shiro watching over his guests


Shiro urged us to start with the poke salad. It featured clean and cool luscious tuna in an assertive but perfectly balanced tart, savory, and spicy sauce described on the menu as “Shiro’s signature spicy sauce.” We asked Shiro what was used in the sauce to make it spicy. Chuckling with eyes sparkling, he held up the unmistakable rooster-emblazoned bottle of sriracha sauce next to his face, wiggling it from side to side. He shrugged and nodded his head, as if to say “of course!” The hot sauce that finds its way on top of basically any and every food at our house also gets props from Shiro.

Shelves of Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha fix at a San Diego Walmart
(Photo by Anjum Gupta)

Chefs, food writers, and average Joes alike have sung the praises of sriracha sauce. Sriracha sauce is equated by most of us to Huy Fong Foods’ ubiquitous “Rooster” sauce, for its bold heat, complexity, and sublime balance of sweet, savory, tangy, and hot that make it such a versatile condiment. My first introduction to the sauce was as a child in northern California where the fiery colored squeeze bottle with the green top was set out on the table at every phở joint alongside the caddy of chopsticks, soup spoons, and sauce dishes. The delicious chile flavor and the way it stained the bowlful of phở broth a bad ass maroon was quite arresting. My parents soon happened upon bottles of the stuff for sale at an Asian market and it became an instant household staple.

Hot Sauce

A huge variety of chile sauces, including sriracha, can be readily bought in stores, from the old staple, Tabasco, to south-of-the-border Tapatio (one of my faves) and Cholula, to kitschy marketing ploys like “Whoop Ass Hot Sauce.” I probably have at least 8 different kinds in rotation at this moment. Looking at the product labels, most contain few ingredients, and not very exotic ones at that. It seemed within close grasp that something truly great could come from a few fresh ingredients and little else in my home kitchen. I love the versatility and balance of flavors in sriracha — it has equally delicious effect in Asian stir fry as it does on carne asada tacos, squirted over eggs, or mixed with mayonnaise and used as a dipping sauce. I decided to try my hand at making a sriracha-inspired sauce, full of fresh chile flavor, but without any additives or preservatives. I set out to find red jalapeño chile peppers, which the Huy Fong Foods brand famously makes their sauce from.

Red jalapeño chile peppers

Red jalapeño chile peppers

I went to a large well-appointed supermarket, but turned up empty-handed. At just about every market I visited, I would always check the produce department on the off chance that the chiles I sought might be there. After trips to American, Japanese, Chinese, and Mexican markets, red jalapeños were still nowhere to be found, let alone fleshy hot red chiles of any variety. I found only green jalapeños, serranos, and Thai birds with dishearteningly few turning scant tinges of yellow and orange. If I was going to stand beside a hot sauce as my own creation, I wanted it to be a respectable bright red.

Weeks passed. Then Months. Then Years. And still I never laid eyes on red chiles. I had almost given up. Finally, while browsing the produce section at a local Asian market this summer, I spotted packages of deep red peppers! I rubbed my eyes, and looked again. Yep, they were real. I declared that the time for my homemade hot sauce had, at last, come.

Continued in my next post: Hot Headed: DIY Sriracha-inspired fresh chile garlic sauce 


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6 thoughts on “Hot headed: A twist on Homemade Sriracha Sauce

  1. Pingback: Hot Headed: DIY Sriracha-inspired fresh chile garlic sauce | Revel Kitchen

  2. Pingback: Recipe: Creamy Chile Garlic Sauce | Revel Kitchen

  3. Pingback: Recipe: Chile Garlic Grilled Cheese Sandwiches | Revel Kitchen

  4. Pingback: Recipe: Sriracha-inspired fresh chile garlic sauce | Revel Kitchen

  5. I had the privilege of tasting a batch of this–Jen has an eerily good sense for pairing flavors, whether it be selecting appropriate side dishes for your protein or developing the perfect condiment like this sriracha sauce. Two big thumbs up! I’d love to see your take on paella, Jen! Who doesn’t love an authentic, crunchy-edged Spanish paella?!

  6. Hi Terel, Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed this sauce so much. I love your idea of a recipe for Spanish Paella with the soccorat (that crispy crust at the bottom). It is great party food, and definitely a dish I’ve been playing with for a while :)!

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