Hot damn! Could Sriracha get any more popular? When it comes to the ubiquitous hot sauce, I’m as much a fan as the next girl. When it comes to kicking up bland sushi or lackluster noodles, just grab the plastic bottle often touted as simply the “rooster sauce” by the linguistically challenged. A squeeze here, a dollop there. Sriracha has come into its own as not only a fairly well-known condiment, but preferred. Think of it as hot sauce’s more exotic cousin, from its double-consonant spelling to its debatable beginnings. Sri Lanka? Si Racha? Thailand? Or is it a completely American condiment given a cooler Asian name to boost sales among foodies?
I first learned of Sriracha from a date at a Palo Alto noodle restaurant. Try this, the boy cajoled. He made up some nonsense about what it was before finally conceding he was clueless but it was good. He was right on both counts which is probably why he only survived a few more outings while fondness for the sauce endures.
Fast-forward through the years and Sriracha is this generation’s aioli and pumpkin spice all rolled into one. The sauce is about as common — some might argue overused — as other recent trends seemingly used as a last-ditch effort to dazzle a dish: bacon, garlic, pork belly, truffle oil, quinoa.
You really know a product has jumped the gourmet shark when the Subway chain introduces its version of Sriracha-doused sandwiches.
Now, fans don’t even have to eat to join the Sriracha frenzy. There’s Sriracha cookbooks. Sriracha popcorn. Chocolate, high heels (to savor on the foot, not the tongue). There’s lip balm tubes for sale (Like making out with tasty napalm!” is the tagline). Sriracha vodka, which might arguably work in a Bloody Mary. And, in the spirit of Christmas, the piece de resistance: Sriracha candy canes.
That’s right. Those fun folks at J&D Foods are marketing Sriracha flavored candy canes. The company is also selling Power Bacon deodorant (verbatim from the press release: “Designed specifically for people with active lifestyles,” although it doesn’t quite explain why these active people will need “all day meat-scented protection.” Put that on the office white elephant gift list.
In a less shudder-inducing yet still odd sales pitch, the same company sells the candy canes as a way to play a trick on children. Seriously. From condiment to comedy.
The desire for all things Sriracha has reached such a fevered pitch that the factory of Huy Fong Foods in Southern California can hardly keep up. The factor has been churning out so much sauce, neighbors of the facility went to court to stop the irritating fumes reportedly tainting the surrounding air and making it hard to breath. According to the company, if forced to stop production, there will be 200,000 less bottles per day of the product. Seriously? A Sriracha shortage?
Remember what happened when Twinkies and Leggos were threatened with rations — prices skyrocketed, eBay became a black market and even those with barely a taste for them reacted as though the culinary sky was falling.
The situation is already heating up.
A small package of the sauce is on sale on eBay for $10,000 which perhaps is a good price for what the seller calls “the last packet of Sriracha ever made.” And it’s not alone as other bottles of the sauce are listed at $20 to $50. I guess you can’t put a price on love but you can put a price on love for a hot sauce.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.