The reputation of Huy Fong Sriracha precedes it, at least in the United States. I add it to all my favorite foods and expect it to be available at every Asian-style restaurant I come across. Imagine my shock when I read that its country of origin is not impressed by the ubiquitous Rooster version.
When reporter Michael Sullivan visited Thailand to learn more about the origins of this famous sauce, he discovered that Vietnamese-American Sriracha is not at all like the sauce the coastal city of Si Racha holds near and dear.
Locals describe the flavor of real Sriracha sauce as klom klom: the balance of hot, sour, sweet, and garlic. American Sriracha is known and loved for its heat, which is exactly what many Thai people found off-putting.
Although there are many sauces on the market, Sriraja Panich is said to be the original sauce created by Gimsua Timkrajang according to his great-granddaughter Saowanit Trikityanukul. It started out only as a treat for family and friends with plenty of hard work and careful attention to ingredients; Saowanit even recalled a single batch taking months to prepare.
Eventually, close family began selling their own version of Sriracha sauce and it grew in popularity. Despite having invented the sauce, the family never felt the need to patent it. Saowanit told Sullivan that the recipe wasn’t much of a secret anyways as they had the ingredients listed on the bottle.
As an experiment, Sullivan had locals taste test the Rooster sauce and in return did not receive the best reactions. “When I first tasted it, I wanted to gag. Too bitter. It’s not klom klom” local Chuwet Kanja stated.
Huy Fong’s Sriracha may not be favored amongst the Thai, but distributer Super Ting Tong have begun importing the sauce into Thailand with little worry. Slow and steady progression is still progression in their perspective expressed founder Robert Booth to Sullivan.
On the other hand, Thai manufacturer Thaitheperos has been importing Sriraja Panich to the U.S. without great success. Americans are accustomed to the Vietnamese-American flavor and perceive Super Ting Tong’s Sriracha as what the sauce should taste like.
Setbacks aside, Varanya and export manager Paweena Kingpad expects Sriraja Panich to dominate the world market because of strong sales in China, already selling 100,000 bottles a month. Their success, Varanya claims, is due to the fact that “Asian people know how to eat.”
Sriracha may have come from Thailand, but I believe we can find beauty in every interpretation of it.