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Pantry Favorites: The Spice Lover's Ketchup

A squirt of Sriracha adds sweet, tangy heat

Photo: Scott Phillips

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I first discovered Sriracha hot sauce some years back at a small, Vietnamese noodle shop in Boston’s Chinatown. A gleaming plastic bottle rested on each table. Ever since, this spicy chili paste has usurped Tabasco and Red Hot’s position as the staple condiment on my dinner table.

Sriracha is as easy to pour as ketchup, and its tangy bite, though best suited to Asian foods, matches most all cuisines. The heat from Sriracha is sweeter than the vinegary tang that marks most hot sauces. Huy Fong Foods, the folks who make Sriracha, explain that this sweetness comes from sun-ripened chiles and garlic. The smooth red paste has a slightly drier consistency than ketchup. It can be squeezed out of the bottle with ease and to artful results—when I’m in a playful mood, I’ll decorate a dish with the sauce the way a restaurant cook might use a squeeze bottle.

While I love Sriracha as a condiment, I also use it when I’m cooking. Often I will add a teaspoon to stir-fry noodles with garlic and fermented black beans. The paste colors the noodles and complements the salty-sweet flavors. Invariably, whenever I make a soy dipping sauce, I also include a squirt of Sriracha for added punch. I’ve learned the hard way that Sriracha becomes more powerful when diluted in liquid. I’ve carefully tested out this phenomenon in my latest experiment: Bloody Marys with a dash of Sriracha (or the looser Chili Garlic sauce from Huy Fong Foods). That’s a brunch drink for the high heat aficionado!

You can find Sriracha at most Asian specialty stores in 17 oz. or 28 oz. bottles or directly from Huy Fong Foods (626/286-8328; www.huyfong.com)

Read its ingredient profie to learn more about sriracha sauce

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