Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Finally Da Sauce Gets its do!!!!..Thank You NYT's
AFTER-HOURS calls to Huy Fong Foods, here in the suburbs of the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles, are intercepted by an answering machine. One recent day, 14 messages were blinking when Donna Lam, the operations manager, hit “play.”
A woman told of smearing Huy Fong’s flagship product, Tuong Ot Sriracha (Sriracha Chili Sauce), on multigrain snack chips. A man proclaimed the purée of fresh red jalapeños, garlic powder, sugar, salt and vinegar to be “the bomb,” and thanked Ms. Lam’s employers for “much joy and pleasure.”
Another caller, hampered by a slight slur, botched the pronunciation of the product name before asking whether discount pricing might be available. Finally, he blurted, “I love rooster sauce!” (A strutting rooster, gleaming white against a backdrop of the bright red sauce, dominates Huy Fong’s trademark green-capped clear plastic squeeze bottles.)
“I guess it goes with alcohol,” deadpanned Ms. Lam, who, like David Tran, the 64-year-old founder of Huy Fong and creator of its sauce, is both proud of the product’s popularity and flummoxed by fans’ devotion.
The lure of Asian authenticity is part of the appeal. Some American consumers believe sriracha (properly pronounced SIR-rotch-ah) to be a Thai sauce. Others think it is Vietnamese. The truth is that sriracha, as manufactured by Huy Fong Foods, may be best understood as an American sauce, a polyglot purée with roots in different places and peoples.
It’s become a sleeve trick for chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
At the restaurant Perry St., in New York City, Mr. Vongerichten’s rice-cracker-crusted tuna with citrus sauce has always relied on the sweet, garlicky heat of sriracha. More recently, he has honed additional uses. “The other night, I used some of the green-cap stuff with asparagus,” Mr. Vongerichten said. “It’s well balanced, perfect in a hollandaise.”
In Houston, at the restaurant Reef, Bryan Caswell, a veteran of Mr. Vongerichten’s kitchens, stirs sriracha into the egg wash he uses to batter fried foods, from crab cakes to oysters to onion rings. “It’s not heavily fermented, it’s not acidic,” said Mr. Caswell, who has won a devoted following for the sriracha rémoulade he often serves with such fried dishes. “It burns your body, not your tongue.”
Sriracha has proved relevant beyond the epicurean realm. Wal-Mart sells the stuff. So do mom-and-pop stores, from Bristol, Tenn., to Bisbee, Ariz.
Sriracha is a key ingredient in street food: The two Kogi trucks that travel the streets of Los Angeles, vending kimchi-garnished tacos to the young, hip and hungry, provide customers with just one condiment, Huy Fong sriracha.
Recently, Huy Fong’s sriracha found its place in the suburbs. Applebee’s has begun serving fried shrimp with a mix of mayonnaise and Huy Fong sriracha. They followed P. F. Chang’s, another national chain, which began using it in 2000, and now features battered and fried green beans with a sriracha-spiked dipping sauce, as well as a refined riff on what both Applebee’s and P. F. Chang’s call dynamite shrimp.
For Mr. Tran, of Chinese heritage but born in Vietnam, neither sriracha-spiked hollandaise nor sriracha-topped tacos with kimchi translate easily.
“I made this sauce for the Asian community,” Mr. Tran said one recent afternoon, seated at headquarters, near a rooster-shaped crystal sculpture.
“I knew, after the Vietnamese resettled here, that they would want their hot sauce for their pho,” a beef broth and noodle soup that is a de facto national dish of Vietnam. “But I wanted something that I could sell to more than just the Vietnamese,” he continued.
“After I came to America, after I came to Los Angeles, I remember seeing Heinz 57 ketchup and thinking: ‘The 1984 Olympics are coming. How about I come up with a Tran 84, something I can sell to everyone?’ ”