Until I met Speedy, I wasn’t really into spicy food. I grew up with parents who thought that spicy food was only for adults and, perhaps, in their eyes my brother and I never became adults so all that chili crushing in dipping sauces was reserved for them. My brother learned to appreciate spicy food earlier than I did because, in college, spicy food seemed to be the preferred beer companion for boys. I never really craved any companion for my beer — so long as the beer was ice cold and the company was good, I was fine.
Then, I got married. Speedy and I lived with his family for a few years and those first years opened my eyes to new food experiences. Not only did his family eat pork fat (we were taught to remove and discard the fat as children), there was also a wide array of condiments and sauces on the dining table including a bottle of Tabasco. They were all into it — dousing the food with Tabasco, a habit I never acquired despite repeated reassurances that food tasted better with a little heat in it. Truth be told, my tolerance for hot food has never been that high.
When I became a mother, I raised my girls with the same philosophy that spicy food was not for young children. Tabasco was not a staple in our house, Speedy did not seem to miss it and things were fine. I don’t remember how and when exactly it happened. Speedy bought a bottle of Tabasco, Sam discovered it, tried it and started using it in much the same way that everyone did at my in-laws’ house. Blood is thicker than water? Maybe. In more ways than one, in fact, because Alex, on the other hand, is no fan of Tabasco either. Whatever the reason, by the time Sam was in her late teens, Tabasco had become a staple in our house.
Then, several months ago, Sam started hankering for something else — Tabasco Habanero sauce. Heck, I didn’t even know that Tabasco came in different varieties (that’s how a Tabasco non-fan I am). Speedy and I searched for the Habanero sauce, it was elusive at first since most groceries sell only the original Tabasco sauce, but we managed to find it and we now keep a permanent supply of the red hot sauce.
Then, one day in the grocery, on a whim, I bought a bottle of Sriracha. For the uninitiated, Sriracha is a chili sauce thought to have originated in Si Racha in central Thailand. I still don’t touch Tabasco but I started adding Sriracha to just about everything — not just for dipping but for cooking. I add Sriracha to barbecue sauce, pizza, spaghetti sauce, stews and even to burgers and meatballs.
Why? What is it about Sriracha that made me gravitate to it? What does it have that I never found in Tabasco? One word — balance of flavors.
Tabasco is hot, sure. But apart from the heat, it doesn’t have much else going. Sriracha, meanwhile, is hot AND tangy AND sweet. I guess it’s the Asian in me. Speedy was raised on a more Westernized diet; I was raised on a very Asian diet. So, quite automatically, I look for the presence of all flavors in my food. It’s a delicate balance where all the flavors are there, each never overpowering the others but, together, they form a perfect symphony that plays like an opera in the mouth.
I love Sriracha. I really do.