Sriracha taste test? What are you talking about? Is there even more than one brand of sriracha?
As condiments go, sriracha is one of the great American success stories. Until David Tran, the 68-year-old Vietnamese immigrant who founded Huy Fong Foods, started marketing his familiar green-capped, rooster-emblazoned version of the Thai hot sauce (named after the coastal city of Si Racha), it was virtually unknown in the United States. Now, youd be hard pressed to find a supermarket that doesnt stock it or a hipster restaurant that doesnt employ it in one dish or another.
Its allure is undeniable. Its more than just a simple hot sauce of fresh chiles—it has a light sweetness, a distinct vinegariness, and a bracing jolt of garlic.
But there are two sides to the story. Some folks (myself included) find that the Huy Fong version—the one that is almost synonymous with sriracha*—is geared toward the palates of American chile-heads who prize heat above all else, rather than the more balanced sweet-hot-sour balance that the Thai original goes for. Pok Pok chef Andy Ricker is a famous detractor of the stuff, preferring Shark brand, a more traditional made-in-Thailand version.
How would our panel of tasters feel? Would we go for a thicker, spicier, bolder American version, or would our palates lead us to a thinner, sweeter, more vinegary Thai sauce?
We gathered together nine different brands and a panel of 16 tasters to find out. Apparently its not hard to find volunteers for a Sriracha taste test.
We asked our intrepid tasters to rank sweetness, heat, and overall flavor on scales of 1 to 10, and requested detailed comments on flavor, texture, and any other salient facts.
In order to combat palate fatigue, tasters were asked to taste the srirachas in randomized sequences so that no two individuals would try the sauces in the same order. In addition, dumplings were provided for dipping, and fried rice and sparkling water were offered as a palate cleansers between brands.
I had some early theories going into this. Perhaps the thicker srirachas would fare better than the thin ones. Nope. No correlation there at all. Ok, maybe its the ones with perservatives and thickeners vs. those without. Wrong again! In fact, after the rankings we found that numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 all had thickeners and/or preservatives, while all of the even numbers were preservative- and thickener-free.
Turns out that the only thing tasters really cared about was spiciness. With rare exception, the higher the perceived spiciness of the sauce, the higher the ranking.
#3: Huy Fong (4/10)
The familiar rooster sauce came in at a strong third, with tasters saying “sweet at the beginning, then hot at the end,” and “tangy, sort of like puréed sambal oelek,” or simply “fantastic!”
Other tasters werent quite as happy, claiming it had a “musty and hot weird flavor,” or that “the preserved garlic flavor is strong with this one.”
Ingredients: Chili, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar, potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite as preservatives, and xantham gum
In an age of organic, farmtotable debauchery, it’s only appropriate a contender be bent on glutenfree and organic ingredients. What starts well in theory slowly erodes into a cacophony of tomatoes, garlic and more tomatoes resulting in a tomato-paste Sriracha. We love ketchup as much as the next Midwestern hick with a sweet tooth, but when it comes to rooster sauce, less tomato is better. We’ll leave this sauce for the Whole Foods consumer.
In 1980, Vietnamese immigrant David Tran introduced his version of a Thai hot sauce that would transform tabletops and subsequently change our lives. The chili sauce called sriracha (named after the town Si Racha in Thailand) blends red peppers, garlic, vinegar and sugar into a smorgasbord of exploding flavor. Today, Tran’s Huy Fong Foods, the maker of sriracha, sells a staggering $60 million worth of the rooster sauce.
Send your taste buds on a oneway trip to flavor town with this amalgamation of fish sauce and Sriracha. The chunky texture leaves more to be desired yet the traditional ingredients, and thus flavors, balance out our indifference toward this sauce. The bold flavors would work well with fried or plain rice, but it’s not the traditional Sriracha most of us are used to.
Finally a hot sauce that reminds us why we assiduously subject ourselves to insufferable amounts of hotness, eventually losing all feeling in our lips and sweating like a hooker in church. Dark Star is the guilty pleasure of spicy. Each bite serves up a crisp roasted chipotle ensemble not seen in traditional rooster sauce but nonetheless deliciously infectious. The entire Rooster staff placed this gutbuster among the best with its kick, punch and overall karate chop to the senses.
For those who prefer vinegarbased hot sauces, such as Frank’s or Tobasco, Roland’s is your mecca for acetic bliss. While other rooster sauces travel the garlic path of least resistance, Roland’s unique penchant for vinegar ostensibly masks the heavy chili and garlic flavors but still provides a soft balance of tastes. We’d recommend Roland’s for a mouthwatering Thai Buffalo wing sauce.
#5: Lee Kum Kee (7/10)
The most out-there brand in terms of flavors (it includes fish extract!), it also had the grittiest, chunkiest texture. Some tasters liked that is “seems less industrial than the others,” though others found that there are “strange flavors here, for no apparent reason.”
In other words, it was a good sauce, one that we generally liked, but it tasted nothing like any sriracha wed ever had before.
Ingredients: Red chili, sugar, salt, garlic, fish extract (anchovy), acetic acid, ascorbic acid
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What does the rooster mean on Sriracha?
Are all Sriracha sauces the same?