I’m sure you’re thinking, “why bother?!”… The answer is that I want to understand many of the ingredients that I use, and making them from scratch, even if just once or twice, is a great way to get to know them. In this case, sriracha has featured in a couple of recent experiments, and a quick review of bottle labels pointed to just a few key ingredients… chillies, vinegar, sugar, garlic and water. How hard could that be to replicate? :)
A search through the internet and some cookbooks all seemed to point to a similar process of putting the sauce together, the main variables being the type of chillies used, the type of vinegar and palm sugar, which I didn’t have in stock, so I used brown sugar instead. This is how I made my sriracha, roughly 150 grams of long thai chilies, de-seeded 90% of them, you may choose to de-seed 100%. Roughly 100 grams of smaller red chilies and just another 25 grams or so of de-seeded siling labuyo (but the fake ones) as opposed to the really native ones. Use gloves when handling the chillies, particularly in this volume. Chop them all up nicely and place in a heavy bottomed pot.
Add about 10 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped. Then 1 cup or just slightly more of water, and the same amount of rice vinegar (you may use coconut or other distilled vinegars). I added 2-3 large pinches of salt and 4 tablespoons of brown sugar and let this come to a boil and lowered heat to let this simmer for 12-14 minutes or until the liquid had reduced to approximately half the amount you started with. You can tell there was a lot of eyeballing in this recipe attempt.
Use an immersion blender to puree the chillies (I had to move the mixture to a glass measuring cup to get sufficient depth of ingredients for the immersion blender to work properly) until quite smooth. You can use a regular blender, but you MUST MUST wash it well afterwards or suffer chilli-nitis in anything you blend for weeks afterwards. :)
I tasted the mixture and recoiled from the initial spiciness, so I returned it to the pot and added two more tablespoons of brown sugar to temper the heat. Stirred for another 2 minutes over a low flame and turned off the gas. Let this cool before bottling in sterilized bottles and storing in the fridge. Once cooled, this had a SPECTACULAR flavor profile… spicy yet flavorful, a tad sweet and a bit of the vinegar shining through. A VERY VERY good chili sauce, if I may say so myself. And the consistency and texture was perfect! Just like the top brand of bottled sriracha, less that characteristic gumminess provided by the addition of xantham gum. Not bad for a first ever attempt. So this is DOABLE at home if you wanted to make your own. :)
Take note of the bright fresh color of the sriracha, without the addition of any artificial coloring or preservatives. I used some of the freshly made sriracha in my version of singapore style curried noodles later the same day and it worked beautifully with the other ingredients… This should last a couple of weeks if refrigerated. I suppose you could heat treat it and it would last months, but I didn’t make enough to do that… just ended up with about 12oz worth. The one downside is that this amount cost some PHP200+ pesos to make, which makes the homemade version actually a bit more expensive than the commercially made srirachas! I guess the cost of grocery purchased chillies is a bit high… particularly if you buy them on a lark at a Rustan’s grocery in a mall setting… :)
Here is a bottle of the “rooster” sriracha manufactured in the U.S. and which arguably launched the recent madness for all things sriracha. Developed by a Vietnamese immigrant to replicate a sauce he was used to from back home, he popularized it in U.S. dining and chef circles and everyone assumes this was a U.S. thing. Purists or traditionalists will argue it simply repackaged a sauce used in Thailand for ages… At any rate, on the ingredients list of this bottle, it adds xantham gum and a preservative to the ingredients I used. I suspect the type of chillies they use also vary. It’s interesting to note that it is VERY hard to gauge the spiciness of one crop of chili from another, so they must use some method of standardizing the results for this commercial sauce… Personally, I have always liked the slight unpredictability of produce… but understand why others seek uniformity.
In another brand/bottle of sriracha, this time manufactured in Thailand, the first thing you notice is that it is slightly darker in color, and in addition to the ingredients I used, and the santham gum and preservative, they also add some MSG.
At any rate, as I described above, it is pretty darned easy to make your own sriracha, in case you didn’t have ready access to it in your town’s grocery, or if you just feel like doing it for the sake of doing it. :)