A Tribute to Sriracha
    Photo by Natalie Krebs / North by Northwestern.

    After a holiday break filled with homemade hot-pot and chili-filled curries, I grudgingly returned to the long dining hall lines, disheartened and thoroughly unexcited for another quarter filled with grease-bomb burgers and overcooked eggs at the omelet bar.

    Just as I was taking my place at the back of the forever-long line though, something bright red and absolutely mind-blowing caught my eye: a giant squeeze bottle of Sriracha.

    As a complete Sriracha snob, I’ve always found Tabasco tasteless, Cholula without kick and Gochujang too gummy. Instead, I prefer to spice up my meals with something that will actually send the Scoville scale through the roof.

    Also known as Rooster Sauce, Kickin’ Chicken or Cock Sauce (for all you second-graders out there), this fiery Thai-style chili sauce with its green squeeze bottle cap, fiery color and emblematic rooster emblazoned in front is really the only condiment you’ll ever need.

    Think of a garlicky ketchup that wakes up your palate and has the potential to bring tears into your eyes (whether that’s from pure bliss or a byproduct of obliterated tastebuds is up to you).

    The most important benefit of Sriracha is that it has the magical ability to transform drab dining hall food into something halfway decent. Seriously, just try it on tomorrow’s stir fry. The red sauce is the savior of bland burritos, cold curries and anything else you can scavenge from those buffet lines.

    Pasta? Add a little zip with a couple of drops.

    Eggs? Spice up your breakfast to match that Bloody Mary.

    Fried Rice? Apply liberally until rice turns an alarming shade of red.

    Nutella? Create the ultimate condiment that kicks the spiced chocolate trend up a notch!

    Sometimes I unscrew the twist top a little too much, spraying sauce everywhere so that my food turns a startling shade of red that makes my tongue hurt from just looking at it. But that’s totally okay, because I always use it as an opportunity to improve my pain tolerance. No matter how much I sweat or how many tears well up, I finish every single bite and try to enjoy the burn, because it means that I’m just that closer to being able to swallow live coals. Badass, right?

    After all, there’s got to be a reason why Bon Appéit named it 2010’s Ingredient of the Year. Those guys know what’s up.

    Also, there’s no other ingredient that can produce a tastier take-out experience or a popcorn topper that’s better than Sriracha butter. It’s the be all and end all of hot sauces simply because it’s so versatile and can be incorporated in everything from an Indian dinner to an Italian dessert.

    In fact, I think I’ve already used up half of the bottle I opened up last week. My salsa could always use a little more spunk.

    Sriracha & Spam Fried Rice
    From The Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens
    Makes 6-8 servings

    1/4 cup of Sriracha, plus more for garnish
    3 tablespoons soy sauce
    3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil or peanut oil
    1 (12-oz.) container of SPAM, diced
    1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
    4 cups cooked white rice, cooled (preferably a day old)
    2 eggs
    1 clove garlic, minced
    Sliced green onions, green part only, for garnish

    In a small bowl whisk together the Sriracha and soy sauce. Reserve.

    Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet or wok over very high heat until it is rocket hot.
    Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the skillet and let it heat up until it begins to shimmer, 10-15 seconds. Toss in the SPAM and corn and corn until the meat begins to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add an additional tablespoon of oil to the pan, and heat for 10 seconds. Add the rice, stirring to coat each grain with oil. Stir-fry for 3 minutes.
    Move the rice mixture toward the outer edges of the pan, creating a "well" in the center. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to center of the pan, and heat until it shimmers, 10 to 15 seconds. Add the eggs and garlic, stirring feverishly. Cook until the eggs are cooked through, then drizzle the Sriracha/soy mixture over the rice. Toss everything together to combine, cooking for an additional 30 seconds or so.
    Mound the rice into bowls, garnish with Sriracha and green onions and serve immediately.


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