Pronounce this sentence out loud: “There may be a schism about this, but my forte is not to err; people are pronouncing ‘Sriracha’ incorrectly.”
If you said skism, for-tay and urr, you’re right, and you probably correct people or silently judge them. “Err” is one of those words that makes you sound like a moron if you say it right; people think it’s derived from “error,” when it really comes from the Ole English uyr, meaning “to fall on one’s face into a dung heap.” (Note: If you believed that, you urred.) But you got Sriracha right, right? Sree-racha.
No. It’s See-rah-cha. The first R is silent. You may ask: Why is it there, then? Am I mispronouncing other foods that have Rs in them? Hand me some ed seedless gapes, please. No adishes, but I will try some of that utabaga ganish.
I don’t know why the R is silent. Perhaps it’s on advice from its attorney. But it’s one of those words that people think sound a certain way, and so you sound dumb when you’re right.
This doesn’t matter, though. We’re entering the last stage of Sriracha’s reign as the hip thing to know about.
I used to call it Rooster Sauce, based on the label. Found it at a Vietnamese restaurant; put some on my noodles-and-fried-Spam dish. It was so incredible I rose, paid my bill, drove home, poured out all the Tabasco I had, drove to the store, bought more Tabasco, poured it out, then went back to buy Rooster Sauce. I put it on everything, because I have a palate as nuanced as a catcher’s mitt and a searing dab of Sriracha is the only way I know I’m alive.
What makes us think that its hip factor is peaking? Because all the big brands are scrambling to get on board.
Heinz brought out Sriracha ketchup, which seemed like an admission of defeat: “Yeah, yeah, we hear you, our stuff doesn’t taste like anything, you miserable hipsters. Here. Hate on this.” It wasn’t very good, and I spent five minutes blurting it out into the sink because the bottle had to be recycled or six polar bears would drown cursing my name. Sriracha is a ketchup replacement. It cannot augment ketchup, any more than you can have mustard-flavored horseradish. No one thinks, “I’d love Sriracha flavoring on my hamburger, but could someone dilute it ahead of time? Thanks!”
So what’s next? Possibly harissa, a Tunisian sauce. Wikipedia says: “Harissa is a Maghrebian hot chili pepper paste, the main ingredients of which are roasted red peppers, Baklouti pepper, serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers.”
Yes, but does it have peppers? I’m confused.
I know different peppers have their own character, but when you combine lots of peppers the loudest one prevails. The Baklouti ranges from 1,000 to 5,000 Scoville units, which is the measure of how much a pepper will make you wish you’d just asked someone to drive a nail through your tongue. Serranos range from 10,000 to 25,000, and for pepper enthusiasts that’s OK; it’s the “I’m bleeding internally but it’s awesome” level of heat. Putting the Baklouti and serrano in the same paste is like putting a duckling in a box with a wolf.
But that doesn’t matter. What counts is that Baklouti is easy to say, and you can impress people by asking for it in a restaurant. They will be even more impressed when the waiter says they don’t have it, and you can make a rueful smile and look back at the menu, rethinking everything. If they don’t have Baklouti, well, that tells you a lot. A lot.
Here are some other suggested replacements for the next hot-hot sauce everyone will be gabbing about:
Murghlack. A favorite of the Tartar culture, this piquant sauce blends the earthy essence of expertly aged hoofs with the savory tang of Central Asian rabbit glands. It uses the fabled Kackolot pepper, or “Bottom Death Pepper,” to add a note of imminent mortality. Good on: eggs, fowl, flesh of your enemies. May cause small children to be dissolved.
Smagta. Hailing from one of the smaller and more painful islands of the Malaysian archipelago, this bright orange sauce consists of water, garlic, a local pepper known as “the Cruel Mouth Finger” and kerosene. It lingers long after eating, often through the autopsy. Good on: eggs, fish, grilled magazines.
Hynsfif Ti-savn. The strange spelling obscures its origins, but gourmands invited to test up-and-coming sauces had nothing but praise for this rich, mysterious sauce. “The color is unique,” said one foodie. “The brownish-orange hue suggests a heritage in the gourd family, yet there are notes of unsulphered molasses.” Another critic raved: “A whisper of raisins, I believe, and the ineffably sublime choice of apple essences for a kiss of sweetness. Sriracha, it’s been nice, but say hello to the new sauce of 2017.”
I’ve had some, and it’s really good on eggs, steaks and steak and eggs. You can get it now, if you poke around the condiments section of your grocery store. Of course, they can’t put that weird name on the label, but just ask the clerk. Do you have any Hynsfif Ti-savn? Say it out loud, just for practice.
He’ll take you right to it. And he might wonder why you had to ask. It’s by the ketchup. Where it’s always been.