Crazy for the Rooster

What’s so hot about Sriracha and why can’t the world get enough?

TEXT: Santi Sahli @sansabor
There’s clearly something masochistic in the now almost-universal practice of eating spicy food: cries of pleasure mingle with tears, snorts and changes of facial expression. Why would someone willingly add a dose of discomfort to one of the happiest times of the day? Why is it increasingly common to find a bottle of that intimidating bright red sauce at friends’ houses or in restaurants?

Here’s one explanation: no matter which of the thousands of chili varieties it’s based on, every hot sauce contains capsaicin. This chemical compound awakens receptors in the mouth that prompt the release of endorphins. Yes, those beloved, internally produced painkillers that are also released and that give us an unconscious happiness when we go for a jog, make love or eat chocolate.

But what disturbs me is that one particular sauce is, literally, on everyone’s lips. Even the name – Sriracha – isn’t easy to say at first. Though this medium-hot condiment originated in Thailand, it’s now produced in California, and the bottle bears a sketch of a cocky rooster surrounded by Asian and Western characters. The top food bloggers have written about it, food chains like Pizza Hut and Taco Bell have incorporated it into their menus, and social network Websites have attested to its domestic use in everything from scrambled eggs to noodle dishes and even desserts. There was actually a run on the sauce at supermarkets following a rumor that the single factory producing Sriracha was about to close.

Other hot sauces may well ask: “What does Sriracha have that I don’t?” And this brilliant red bottle with the green cap would answer that, of course it’s the favorite, because it has just the right amount of capsaicin – not so little that it dissipates too quickly, nor so much that it irritates the nose, eyes or throat like so many other hot sauces. It would also say that it’s proud to bear the rooster emblem: after all, Sriracha rules the roost.

20 million bottles are produced each year.

The brand doesn’t spend
any money on advertising.

The inspiration for a new beer: Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout Beer.


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