Any foodie, and hot sauce lover will know the beloved name of Sriracha well. This world-renowned sauce has to be the king of all hot sauces ever made and enjoyed by piquant adoring personalities. Sriracha sauce has worn its crowned title proudly for numerous years; almost as long as it’s been around for! However, another ancient Asian hot sauce is making waves in the red and robust hot sauce ocean among foodies and sauce lovers alike. Gochujang could very well be on its way to soon sitting on Sriracha’s throne. This news is bound to be overwhelming to South Africans, who have only just been lucky enough to have Sriracha sauce stocked on local supermarket shelves!
The Rise of King Sriracha
Sriracha sauce has a cult following all over the globe, particularly in the U.S.A. When news of the possible closing of the Sriracha factory in Irwindale, California broke, Sriracha fans passionately hit social media in their mass numbers, demanding a halt to this possible “srirachocalypse.” In truth, there was no real threat to the factory if it complied with odour control regulations.
The modern Sriracha sauce is said to be derived from the version which originated in the coastal city of Si Racha in the Chonburi Province of Eastern Thailand. The recipe is believed to have been developed by a Thai housewife, and was primarily used as a dipping sauce for seafood dishes in all local seafood restaurants.
The traditional Thai version, dating back to the 1930s, still made and manufactured in Thailand, is called Sriraja Panich, and is bottled by Theparos Food Products. This sauce is runnier and less vibrant in colour than the popular version, but is said to have a tangier taste.
The most globally recognized and adored version is manufactured in the U.S.A. by Huy Fong Foods. The ingredients include chilli, sugar, salt, garlic, and distilled vinegar. Also known as “Rooster Sauce”, Sriracha is packaged in a clear bottle, with a white rooster logo prominently adorning its front. The pointed green top properly completes the iconic image of this deliciously hot condiment.
Today Sriracha is used by a hoard of foodies, cooks, and chefs in households, cafes, food trucks, and even fine dining restaurants. It’s adored for its garlicky, sweet and spicy flavour, similar to the famous Portuguese peri-peri sauce, but with perhaps more sour sweetness, and definitely with more Thai twist. It can also be likened to sweet chili sauce, but has a more rounded flavour and a spicier kick.
Sriracha is an excellent addition to just about every meal, whether during the cooking process, or doused on afterwards as a flavour enhancer. Sriracha on fried eggs is particularly appetizing, especially when part of a hearty breakfast or where fried eggs form part of a dish.
The versatility of Sriracha is endless. It’s been found in various foods including fast foods, as well as in fine dining meals, and within other condiments, especially mayonnaise. Sriracha doesn’t stop at savoury though. The hot sauce has been used in desserts, sweets and cocktails too!
Gochujang on the Uprise!
Gochujang is not new. It’s an ancient Korean hot pepper paste that’s been used for decades in traditional Korean cooking. With the emphasis on fusion foods now in the western world; foodies, cooks, and chefs are looking for more intriguing, delicious and foreign ingredients. Gochujang is the new kid on the block when it comes to the western world’s obsession with hot sauces. Many die-hard Sriracha fans have even conceded that Gochujang steals the hot sauce lime light.
Gochujang comes in a thick paste form of dark red brick-like, almost terracotta colour. It looks like passion, warmth, comfort, and sunshine contained in a single tub. This hot pepper paste is a fermented condiment consisting of red pepper powder or chillies, steamed, glutinous sweet rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. At times an extra sweetener such as sugar, syrup, or honey is also added.
In Asia, Gochujang is as synonymous with Korean cuisine as the fermented vegetable dish, Kimchi is. It forms one third of a holy ingredient trilogy of traditional Korean cooking ingredients, which includes Doenjang (soybean paste) and Ganjang (soy sauce).
Traditionally, and before modern manufacturing took over the making of Gochujang, it was naturally fermented in large earthen pots outdoors in the sunlight. As a result, the vast majority of Korean families would have had elevated platforms made of stone in their back yards, where their own homemade pots of Gochujang would sit. Today tubs of Gochujang can be found at good Asian specialty stores.
Koreans use Gochujang extensively in almost all of their meals including stews, soups, salads, and marinated meats. It is most popularly used in a traditional signature Korean dish adored globally, known as bibimbap. This dish consists of rice that is well coated in Gochujang and topped with a fried egg, vegetables, and meat.
Gochujang has a deeper, more complex and more thoroughly rounded flavour than Sriracha has. It has a warm heat from the chili, a light sweetness from the rice and sweetener, and a funky fermented flavour from the fermented soybean. It can be slightly likened to miso in the sense that it has a similar fermented taste.
The shining element of Gochujang is that it offers an indescribably beautiful umami taste that is missing in Sriracha, and most other sauces. Umami is a type of savouriness that adds a lip-smacking element to any dish, and is particularly useful when paired with vegetables.
Due to its offish, funky flavour, Gochujang may be viewed as being less versatile than Sriracha. It would be more difficult to incorporate Gochujang into sweet, dessert-type foods, whereas with Sriracha it is commonly done. However, Gochujang can be easily incorporated into almost every savoury meal once understood and respected.
Have you been lucky enough to taste both Gochujang and Sriracha sauce? If so, which is your favourite? If you haven’t had experience with either of these two head honchos in the hot sauce world, there’s never been a better excuse to try something new!
Carroll.R., 10 April 2014, Sriracha hot sauce production declared public nuisance by California city, The Guardian, viewed on 15 April 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/10/sriracha-hot-sauce-public-nuisance-irwindale-california
Falkowitz.M., 2012, Spice Hunting: Gochujang, Korean Chile Paste, Serious Eats, viewed on 15 April 2014, from http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/03/spice-hunting-gochujang-korean-chile-paste.html
Jane Lear. Writing on Food and Travel, n.d., Beyond Sriracha: The Deep Heat of Gochujang, viewed on 15 April 2014, from http://janelear.com/wordpress/?p=422
Lee-Potter.C., n.d., Gochujang, The Fiery Red Paste Set to Steal Sriracha’s Crown, Cereal, viewed on 15 April 2014, from http://readcereal.com/magazine/volume-2/gochujang/
Urban.S., 3 September 2013, You’ve Tried Sriracha, Now Go For Gochujang, Organic Authority, viewed on 15 April 2014, from http://www.organicauthority.com/foodie-buzz/youve-tried-sriracha-now-go-for-gochujang.html
Wikipedia, 2014, Gocuchang, viewed on 15 April 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gochujang
Wikipedia, 2014, Sriracha, viewed on 15 April 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sriracha_sauce
Visit Korea, n.d., Gochujang, viewed 15 April 2014, from http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SH/whatToBuy/whatToBuy.jsp?action=item&cid=995798
Image 1: Los Angeles, 9 January 2014, Melrose Eatery Booked To Capacity For ‘Sriracha Shortage’ Menu, viewed on 17 April 2014, from http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/tag/sriracha/
Image 2: The Glut Life, 7 March 2013, The Sriracha Ice Cream Sandwich, viewed on 17 April 2014, from http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/article/the-sriracha-ice-cream-sandwich
Image 3: Rae, D., 9 January 2012, Honey Sriracha Sauce, viewed on 17 April 2014, from http://milehighmartha.blogspot.com/2012/01/honey-sriracha-sauce.html
Image 4: Falkowitz, M., 1 March 2012, Spice Hunting: Gochujang, Korean Chile Paste, viewed on 17 April 2014, from http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/03/spice-hunting-gochujang-korean-chile-paste.html
Image 5: Multi-bits, n.d., Korean dish, Bibimbop, viewed on 17 April 2014, from http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/korean-dish-bibimbop-high-res-stock-photography/146423546#
Featured image: Image Source, n.d., Woman with a red chili pepper between her teeth, viewed on 17 April 2014, from http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/woman-with-a-red-chili-pepper-between-her-teeth-royalty-free-image/88623090#