Food On Fire

Sriracha is hot in more ways than one. Sriracha chicken wings will soothe your spicy cravings.

Special To The Jewish Week
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Hot sauce used to mean Tabasco. In culinary circles and kitchen tables everywhere, in matters of how hot is hot, a newer contender is the big winner: Sriracha.

In 2010, Bon Appetit Magazine named it “Ingredient of the Year.” Today it’s become one of those go-to staples, like ketchup and mustard. Kosher cooks have leaped on the bandwagon; there are several hekshered brands, including the original from Huy Fong Foods.

Sriracha has been around since 1980 when David Tran and his family emigrated to the United States from Vietnam, having financed the voyage by selling chili pepper-based hot sauce in his hometown, near Saigon. The boat they sailed on was the Huy Fong, hence the name of the company that now produces over 10 million bottles of this stuff every year).

There are taste differences among the various brands – as with ketchup – but all Sriracha sauces begin with chili peppers. They are thicker than Tabasco, the other top favorite hot sauce. Tabasco is more piquant with vinegar and can be even hotter than Sriracha. Tran’s Hoy Fong version is a bit sweeter than some.

Thai cuisine and the beloved Vietnamese banh mi sandwich introduced Sriracha to the American palate — Now it’s everywhere. People add a little bit here and there to heat up almost everything from vegetable or tomato soup to scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes to hamburgers, and for dipping sauces for crudités or sweet potato fries and fiery barbecue sauce.

There’s more you can do with it. “Buffalo” wings. Guacamole. I’ve made a traditional grilled cheese sandwich using Sriracha butter (mix about 3 tablespoons Sriracha into 6 to 8 tablespoons softened butter). This compound butter will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge, so you can use the extra to slather onto corn on the cob or to fry up some onions, peppers and eggs.

You can put a little Sriracha in vinaigrette to perk up a salad, especially if it contains lamb, beef or firm tofu. Sriracha also gives some energy to marinades for beef, chicken and lamb. I love it mixed with mayo on a grilled skirt steak sandwich. I’ve made Sriracha devilled eggs for a party. A small dollop is sensational in a Bloody Mary; surprisingly welcome in macaroni and cheese or plain old egg salad.

Things can get pretty crazy with trends here in these United States. Sriracha potato chips make sense. I’m good with Sriracha t-shirts and stuff. But now you can buy Sriracha lollipops and chocolate bars.

I think that’s kind of jumping the shark.

Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author and cooking teacher in Stamford. Her latest book is Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com and follow on Twitter at @RonnieVFein.

Sriracha Chicken Wings

Ingredients: 
1 dozen chicken wings.
1/3 cup ketchup
3 tbsp Sriracha
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp sesame seed oil
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 large scallion, chopped
Recipe Steps: 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the wings and separate the parts (discard the tips or use them for stock or bake them along with the other parts). In a large bowl, combine the ketchup, Sriracha, soy sauce, honey, sesame seed oil, ginger, garlic and scallion.
Mix ingredients to blend them thoroughly. Add the wings and coat them completely. Place the wings in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the wings over and bake for another 15 minutes or until the wings are crispy. Makes 24 pieces, 6 servings for hors d’oeuvre.