If you want the ultimate definition of “hot new,” Sriacha would more than likely be it (that is, until the next “hot new” comes around and then you’ll have to come up with something else). The ubiquitous, giant squeeze bottle with the little green tip and a picture of a rooster on the front is everywhere. It has a presence at almost any eating establishment on the map– not limited to just places that serve Asian grub. Greek restaurants, Mexican restaurants, fried chicken joints and burger hot spots all have Sriacha bottles on their tables. There are even Sriacha T-shirts now. (Full disclosure: I own a Sriacha T-shirt. I wear it constantly as I always get comments on it and that makes me feel special.)
For those not up to speed, Sriacha is a hot sauce consisting of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. Sriracha hot sauce, made by Huy Fong Foods, was founded in downtown Los Angeles 33 years ago by David Tran. The factory is now in Irwindale, California, which recently made news because the factory in Irwindale emits such a strong odor that the entire city smells like hot sauce and there are lawsuits against the company claiming that the smell is “a public nuisance.” But even the bad press can not damper the popularity of this hot sauce. Its Q rating is sky high and its popularity is indestructible.
There was a time in the not so distant past when very few people even knew or cared about this glorious hot sauce. There are approximately one billion, five hundred thousand hot sauces in the world and busy people just don’t have the mental bandwidth to learn about another one. It used to be you could only find Sriacha bottles at hole in the wall Asian joints where they would set them on every table and leave them there…like forever. So unless you frequented these places to experience awesome tasting, awesomely cheap Asian cuisine, you really didn’t even know of its existence. Well, not any more. Usurped by hipsters, foodies, hipster foodies and foodie hipsters alike, Sriacha is now like all the ugly girls in clichéd, teen movies who took off their glasses, let their hair down and now are suddenly smoking hot.
Besides the ethnic caché and the cool looking rooster, the reason why Sriacha is so popular is its incredible versatility. What kinds of food can you put Sriacha on? Any damn thing you choose. Few things actually don’t go with Sriacha. (Cereal. That would be bad.) That’s the beauty of this hot sauce. It works on any protein, can be topped on most vegetables, can be an ingredient in any sauce or dressing and can even be used in mixing cocktails. Hell, you can even find Sriacha-infused chocolate truffles on-line. If that isn’t popular in a nutshell than I don’t know what is.
But there is a danger of Sriacha becoming too popular. Anytime something that once wasn’t cool suddenly becoming cooler than ever imagined means that there is a probability of a harder and faster fall from grace. Especially when that something is food. Sriacha once was a hard to find condiment. Now you can go to a taco stand and find a bottle of Sriacha sitting right next to a bottle of Tapatío sauce and not even give it a second thought. (Meanwhile all of the unused and no longer popular bottles of Tabasco sauce have gathered together in a church basement to form a support group and have a good cry.) Once it moves even more mainstream and you start seeing it at Burger King or Sonic then you know that Sriacha’s fifteen minutes may be up. Lays has Sriracha flavored chips.
So will this hot sauce remain popular? Can this once “ugly” girl named Sriacha remain hot? Or is it just a trend? Only time will tell. It certainly has as good as shot as any. There is a very specific reason why Sriacha has suddenly become so popular in the first place…
Because it is just so damn tasty.