And some, including myself, like it hot and homemade. I am talking about chili sauce of course, sriracha in particular. Although sriracha stems from Thailand and/or Vietnam, most of us are familiar with the plastic bottle with the rooster, a product of Los Angeles, California. A few years ago I remember reading "A Chili Sauce to Crow About" in the New York Times. It tells the story of Huy Fong Foods and the development of their infamous rooster-wearing-bottle of hot sauce. It is a story of how immigration, mixed national backgrounds and multiple passports disregard boundaries when it comes to food. Does something have to be "pure" to be authentic? And does something have to be "authentic" to be good? Obviously, not. So who cares what national label a chili sauce wears, or whether a chili sauce challenges or disobeys that label? What really counts is how much hot sauce you can eat before your faces turns the colour of a chili pepper.
And, of course, the ingredients of that hot sauce count too. As I said at the beginning, I like it both hot and homemade. I have absolutely nothing against bottled sauces, but I do have some bones to pick with the unpronounceable preservatives that a lot of them contain. This is why my partner has started referring to my philosophy about ingredients as Food Marxism. It might have something to do with a regular rant that I give about alienated labour regarding food production (which is why I am a regular at farmer's markets), the horrors of industrial meat production, and why our balcony and kitchen window are best used for growing herbs and plants. He also likes the idea that Food Marxism, like Marxism itself, comes out of Germany.
I assure you that making homemade sriracha is completely worth it. Other than chopping chilies and occasionally removing their seeds (okay and you have to blanch some garlic too), the food processor and time do most of the work (my sincere apologies if you don't have a food processor or blender of sorts). You can make the sauce as hot or as mild as you desire based on the number of chili seeds you include (although I do believe that sriracha tastes best when it is hot, hot). It lasts forever in the fridge and it has only six very easy to pronounce ingredients.
And then what to do with it? If you are like my old roommate in Copenhagen, the lovely Mathilde, you'll eat it with everything. Bon Appetit also has an inspiring list of 25 ways to use sriracha.
adapted from Gwenyth Paltrow's 'Notes from My Kitchen Table'
makes about 500ml, around 2 cups
1 small head of garlic
2 cups of packed chilies, thinly sliced and with some seeds removed according to preference (jalapenos are common to use, but use any chili you like and can find)
275 ml (1 cup and 2 1/2 tbsp) rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp fish sauce or soy sauce
Peel the head of garlic and place the cloves in a small saucepan. Add cold water just to cover and then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the water boils, immediately remove the pan from the heat and drain. Cool the garlic under running water and then repeat the blanching process once more. After blanching the garlic the second time, thinly slice it and then add to a medium sized pot with the chillies and rice wine vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil and then cook for three minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the agave and salt. Stir well and then let the mixture sit for 1 hour.
After 1 hour process the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot and then bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. The sauce should be slightly reduced and it should have some body. Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool slightly. Stir in the fish or soy sauce. Once cool, transfer the mixture to a glass jar and store in the fridge.