Monday, May 25, 2009


John T. Edge's third installment of his splendid United Tastes series for The New York Times came out last week, and it's devoted to the story of David Tran and his Tuong Ot Sriracha sauce, or as I now prefer to call it, "rooster sauce."

Inspired, I picked up a bottle of Sriracha over the weekend (at H&L Market, which had an entire endcapped stacked with cases of the green-capped bottles). The stuff is pretty darn hot, but it has a delightfully complex flavor, with sweet, garlicky undertones than shine through the initial fiery burst of peppers. You can see why every one from Jean-Georges Vongerichten to Korean taco truck operators have glommed onto the stuff.

Tran's story is interesting enough on its own merits, but it really is an all-American story, harking back more than a century to the many immigrant entrepreneurs who brought flavors of their birth countries to a new shore and adapted them to a new market and, in the process, changed the way Americans ate. It makes one wonder what "mainstream" American food will look like three or four decades down the road. If the success of sriracha is any indication, I predict it will look very, very different than it does today.

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