Sriracha

Submitted by peter on Thu, 02/08/2018 - 06:22

Take a break from reading about technology. Sriracha is in fashion. Sriracha is a chilli sauce that varies depending on where you live.

Outside of America, you buy a hot chilli sauce from Thailand. You might start with Sriraja Panich which may be the original sriracha sauce created in Si Racha, Thailand, back in the 1930s. The original sriracha was made with chillies, salt, vinegar, and sugar. Sriraja Panich adds garlic and acetic acid. They have a hotter version with birds eye chillies mixed in. The sauce is aged for three months before shipping.

In America, you will probably end up with an American product named Huy Fong Sriracha which is similar to Sriracha. Huy Fong add garlic, potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfate, and xanthan gum. Huy Fong has a medium level of sugar and is high in salt.

Back in the real world, there are hundreds of chilli sauces to choose from. Many Thai sauces are high in sugar and there also many with low levels of sugar. You can also get chilli sauces that are not spoilt by garlic.

If a sauce has a thickener added, like xanthan gum, the sauce is lacking in chilli. The thickener lets them dilute the sauce with water. The thickener is also added for America because Americans expect sauce to be thick. Only Tabasco is allowed to be natural.

One sauce sold in Australia has the plastic propylene added as a thickener. Surely that should be illegal. In a quick search, I found only one test of the additive and that was only for a few days.

Garlic was added to food as a disinfectant before we had a scientific understanding of bacteria. We can now kill the same bacteria with some salt and lemon juice. Garlic stays in use because it revives the flavour of stale meat and it anaesthetises your sense of smell, helping street food vendors sell meat that was not refrigerated.

There is no need to add garlic to full strength chilli sauce because the chilli provides enough acid. The garlic is only needed when the manufacturer cheats by diluting out the chilli with masses of water and thickener. You then have to add acid or garlic to make the sauce effective as a disinfectant.

The acid/salt/disinfectant effect is more important in marinades. Despite the American fast food approach of painting on a sauce at the last minute then calling it a marinade, a marinade is actually used to store food for a while back before refrigerators. You could catch fish in the morning, marinate the fish fillets, go to work for the day, then cook the fish at night.

Solanaceae is a family of plants containing strong chemicals. Tobacco and belladona are two examples. Capsaicin is a strong but not poisonous chemical found the capsicum genus, part of the Solanaceae family. Depending on where you live, members of capsicum may be named capsicum, chilli, chili, bell pepper, chilli pepper, or paprika.

Chilli is the original word. Chili is a shorter version that some people now use.

In some countries the large versions are called capsicums and the small versions are called pepper or chilli. Sriracha sauce uses medium size hot chilli. A banana chilli is too mild and a birds eye chilli too hot. Cayenne, jalapeno, and other medium are about right. A random bunch of seeds for one variety can produce a wide range of flavour. The riper the fruit, the milder the flavour. The best growing conditions also produce a milder fruit.

Most capsicum varieties start out dark green, change to a light green then red. Some go through a white stage. There are yellow, purple, and orange varieties. Sriracha uses red chillies.

The type of salt used in sriracha does not matter as the salt is dissolved in the chilli juice and the colour of the sauce is from the chilli.

The type of sugar used in the sauce is not important as it should be drowned out by the flavour from the chilli. Medium to dark brown sugar will have enough taste to detect in the chilli sauce. Experiment. When you make fresh sriracha at home, you can leave out the sugar. Just replace the sugar and some of the chilli with sweet ripe capsicum.

Chilli and vinegar were introduced to Asia by the Portuguese traders. Vinegar and chilli work together. For red chilli, you might use malt vinegar to introduce a hint of extra flavour similar to ageing in wood.

If you make sriracha with dark green chillies, the vinegar/sugar part will be harder to balance. A green sriracha would not be a sriracha but nothing is really a sriracha if it is not made in Thailand or it contains additives or it has water added.

Chillies are a good source of vitamin C. Capsicums are a fruit. If you can get genuine ripe capsicum, not the supermarket kind, you can eat the capsicum the same as any other fruit. Capsicum do not ripen after picking. Grow your own to discover the real taste or buy from local growers when in season.

A ripe banana chilli can be minced with a touch of vinegar and used fresh instead of sriracha. No salt. No sugar. Just enough vinegar to balance the sweetness of the fruit and to make the mince a little more liquid. Ideal for fish. With fish, you can experiment with adding mixtures of lemon, lime, and orange juice instead of pure vinegar.

For a richer flavour, you can hold the capsicum over a gas flame for a few seconds to remove the outer layer of skin and add a little caramelisation to the sugar.

The solanaceae family also contains tomatoes, should you want to experiment with mixing a milder sauce. Solanaceae also contains potatoes, eggplants, and petunia. You could decorate the table with petunias when you serve sriracha.