Bon Appétit Says Sriracha Is Over?

Posted on 21 Mar 2014 17:33

Time for some food-snobbery in the vein of High Fidelity. You know that movie? John Cusack and Jack Black? It's about music snobs who think that any music that achieved popular success is crap, and the only good music is to be found in dusty bargain bins in little known record shops (that still sell vinyl), or on the B-side of old 45's.

In other words, if it has mass appeal, it is pedestrian and not artistic. Well, a lot of this same kind of crap exists in the food world. A lot of people, getting into the whole foodie thing, are just now discovering sriracha hot sauce, which is exemplified by the Rooster sauce sriracha made by Huy Fong, for instance.

So, Sriracha is a great, versatile sauce that has been a fridge staple for many people over the years, but has recently started becoming much more popular due to the thousands of food magazines and food blogs on the web. Leave it to some outfit like Bon Appétit to both help with the over-saturation while simultaneously asking the question Is Sriracha Dead and Over? These are the same folks, mind you, that declared sriracha the "ingredient of the year" in 2009.

Only food snobs would engage in a debate over hot sauce! Because only food snobs actually give a crap what hot sauce other people think is cool, for any other purpose than to get a recommendation on a hot sauce to try.

Bottle of Sriracha

You can see my finger print on that thing.

Bottle of Sriracha

You can see my finger print on that thing.

What a childish, snobbish, and pointless question, and discussion. Perhaps, just by writing about it, I am being a bit pointless myself, but I'll try to make a point, regardless. Yes, food is culture. But food is much more personal than it is cultural. If you've liked something for years, you do NOT have to stop liking it just because it has cropped up all over the place. I've worn Chuck Taylor's since I was a kid and I didn't stop when they both went out of fashion and came back into fashion (thanks to "Grunge" culture?) with a vengeance.

But the problem is not the silly BA debate. The problem is that everybody and their mother wants to cite it as if it is meaningful. It is no more meaningful to YOU than two guys debating hot wings, with sauce dripping from their chins, while watching Monday night football. What a couple of people say to each other about a hot sauce should not have to influence what we think about it. Influencers are for adolescents, not grown adults with grown-up minds. You shouldn't be overly influenced by television commercials, either, should you? You like sriracha, you don't need to worry over whether some hot-shot at a glitzy food mag thinks it's over. There is no "truth-value" here.

In the foodie world, there is this unwritten rule that you have to try everything. That means, if you reach for sriracha, or any other staple hot sauce, out of habit and love, you are not really hip. What you're supposed to do is either try every hot sauce you can, and then search the web for whichever ones have the most cachet and use those, trumpeting their superiority to everyone you meet, or, seek the opinion of one or two food influencers, and then declare, with certainty, that you know hot sauce. The other rule is that as soon as something becomes part of the mass culture, rather than just the culture of the select few cognoscenti, it is rejected. Why is it that snobs of any color, whether literary, musical, or culinary, always confuse obscurity with value or profundity?

Perhaps, however, the authors knew about the new Sriracha Pringles flavor. Not only would no self-respecting foodie admit to liking something that is a Pringles flavor, but the new flavor is only available at Walmart, having begun shipping in February. Even before that there was Sriracha flavored Lay's potato chips, a limited edition flavor that was rolled out along with Chicken and Waffles and India's Magic Masala (consumers were asked to vote for their favorite). There is also UV Sriracha vodka, candy canes, and a subway sandwich.

Huy Fong Sriracha was also in the news, recently, when residents of Irwindale, California, complained about the fumes coming from the plant, which is located on North Azusa Canyon Road. The fumes are claimed to burn the eyes and cause coughing fits. Despite the company's protestations that it's a "joke" on them, and reports from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) that 41 of the 61 complaints came from 4 households in the area, it seems that city hall also received complaints from a broad variety of people, and despite the misleading math, the total number of households to complain to AQMD was actually 20. After being taken to court by the city, and being ordered to shut down in November until the issue was addressed, Huy Fong claims to have solved the problems by improving their filtering system. Suffice it to say that Huy Fond Sriracha, at least, is becoming a household name. Time for any self-respecting foodie to denounce it!

I have an easier formula. I try what I like, and like what I like. I like Sriracha sometimes, and I like a whole lot of other sauces. I really do not care what other people like, unless I'm cooking for them. The conclusion of the hot sauce debate seemed to be that if something becomes part of geekery or people develop a fetish for it — if, got forbid, there is a bandwagon — you will get all icky if you still keep using it. Well, I couldn't understand what they were saying, to be honest, since it made no psychological sense, and seemed to be more about sounding tuned-in and hip. By the way, I am really annoyed by the use of ™ as if it is hashtag™

Huy Fong is Not the Only Sriracha

There are other sriracha's out there, by the way. For example, there is Roland Sriracha, which is actually made in China and imported. There are others available which are actually made in Thailand (the Sriracha region of Thailand is where the sauce originally comes from).

Roland Sriracha Sauce
Roland Sriracha Sauce

There is also Shark brand, Lee Kum Kim, Sky Valley, Lingham's, and many others. There is even a Kikkoman Sriracha sauce. Check out this online review of several sriracha sauce brands. According to the reviewers, Huy Fong "Rooster Sauce" still came out on top.

A debate over hot sauce is about the most useless thing I could think of writing about. But the idea that a couple of strangers should influence what food we like? Ridiculous. I'll eat whatever damned hot sauce I choose, regardless of how much it blows up on the web.

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