We're toasting National Hot Sauce Day with a big ol' bottle of Tabasco sauce. You know why? Because it's better than Sriracha.
You read that right, hipsters. We have not drunk the Sriracha Kool-Aid.
By now you know that Sriracha is not an imported brand, but instead a cleverly marketed one designed by California manufacturer Huy Fong Foods. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's actually a wonderful American dream story: Founder David Tran flees South Vietnam, settles in Cali, misses the hot sauce of his childhood, and builds a giant brand with $60 million in annual sales in Chinatown. And Sriracha's wonderful in pho.
But in addition to a mash of red jalapeño chiles, its also got a healthy dose of sugar and garlic powder. Good if you want sugar and garlic on your food, bad if you don't.
Sriracha can indeed be fine for foods that are already somewhat devoid of flavor. Bricks of ramen noodles, Campbell's chicken noodle soup, fast foods of dubious quality that have incorporated it into their recipes like it's the new sliced bread. (Subway, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and White Castle have all done so, and it's no surprise, as those companies love plying their foods with sugar; next to all the fat, it's the surest way to our hearts.)
But what if you just want to season your already delicious food? Your egg hash, homemade pizza, a delicious curry that just needs a tiny push into flavor town.
Tabasco, with only three ingredients -- Tabasco peppers (native to Mexico, now grown on Louisiana's Avery Island), salt, and vinegar -- is an all-purpose seasoning that won't kick your already mostly balanced food into some strange, unbalanced no-man's land.
When your dish needs "just a little something" it's often acid, not necessarily salt, or even heat. And certainly not sugar and usually not garlic, either. The Mexican custom of serving a lime alongside almost everything is a genius one -- once you get accustomed to that tiny squeeze of fresh acid, it's difficult to go back.
But when fresh limes are in short supply, turn to the Tabasco bottle. Its heat, when used in moderation, is moderate, and its balance of vinegar and salt turns up the flavor on almost anything.
And do not be browbeaten by the server who will inevitably inform, enthusiastically: "We have Sriracha!" when you ask for the Tabasco.
Congratulate him on keeping up with trends, but you're not in the mood for spicy ketchup just now.
The occasional establishment will eschew the magical juice, in favor of plying the public with the supposedly mightier Sriracha. And for those moments, might I suggest carrying a bottle of your own -- until the inevitable day comes that the top unscrews, your bag stinks like a salsa bar, and you become "that girl" on the bus.
So hey -- it seems Sriracha does have Tabasco beat in at least one way.
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