Flavour Revolution – Sriracha

Fierce Flames

Hailing from eastern Thailand, Sriracha has burst onto the world scene over the last few years, even being used by restaurant chains, such as Subway, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and many others.  Even McDonald’s has jumped on the Sriracha bandwagon. The hot sauce is made from chili pepper paste, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt, and it will leave a sizzle on your taste buds. Let’s learn some more about the product that is sometimes referred to as “cock sauce”, thanks to the rooster adorned on the bottle:

Sriracha No Sauce

That cock symbolizes Huy Fong Foods and Sriracha founder David Tran, who was born in the year of the rooster, according to the Chinese zodiac. Huy Fong can push out 3000 bottles of Sriracha each hour, from their production plant in Irwindale, California. 100 million pounds of red jalapeno peppers are used each year to make the sauce and are all provided by Underwood Ranches in Amarillo, California.

Si Racha, where the sauce has been originally traced back to, is actually a seaside town in Thailand, with a population of almost 20,000 inhabitants. Sales of the Americanized version have topped 20 million bottles per year and that number just continues to rise.

On the Scoville scale, which measures how spicy different sauces, peppers, and other food items are, Sriracha gets a score of 2200 points, which is actually quite low, in the grand scheme of things. The hottest pepper currently listed on the scale is the Carolina Reaper (great name!) at 2,200,000 heat units. Your face would probably implode if you put that pepper in your mouth!

Sriracha Eye Drops

Sriracha has now been infused into everything from candy canes to potato chips. One of those sounds delicious and the other disgusting and I bet you know which way this potato chip monster is leaning. The spicy dip has also been added as an ingredient to lollipops, beef jerky, lip balm, and even cocktail bitters.

Portland’s Rogue beer and spirits company has produced a Sriracha Hot Stout Beer. I’ve had and enjoyed the company’s Chipotle Ale, so I’m curious to also try the Sriracha offering. Perhaps, the Sip Advisor will get his grubby hands on it during Easter weekend, when the Sip Family is planning a crawl of the Portland scene!

While Sriracha has made its way around the world, it has also left our atmosphere, aboard the international space station, demanded by astronauts, to be used on their dehydrated meals. Some folks are quick to put the sauce on anything and everything, but the most popular items include pizza, burgers, noodle dishes, eggs, and stir fry.

sriracha-food-pyramid

A 34-minute documentary on Sriracha was released in 2013, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, which saw 1315 people donate $21,009 to the cause, in just 31 days. All this success – sales increases by about 20% each year – despite never advertising their product. Sriracha is also not trademarked, so that’s why imitators may be aplenty, including a version made by Tabasco.

The Sriracha story hasn’t been all sunshine and chili peppers, though. The Huy Fong company has been sued and shutdown over the smell omitted by their factory. Complaints from area residents included sore throats, burning eyes, and nosebleeds. That’s a small price to pay for convenient hot sauce!

The factory opened again, once the odor issues were dealt with and fans of the sauce can actually take a tour of the place, getting to see how peppers become paste and how Sriracha makes its way from harvest to bottles to consumer’s mouths. Occasionally, there’s also an ice cream truck on the site, offering Sriracha-infused ice cream!

Flavour Revolution: The Cocky Rooster

The Cocky Rooster Beer Cocktail

  • Rim glass with Salt
  • 1.5 oz UV Sriracha Vodka
  • Top with Beer
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Soy Sauce
  • Garnish with Lemon Wheel

In a not totally surprising note, I first experienced Sriracha in potato chip form and liked it enough that I want to give it more opportunities aboard Sip Advisor delicacies. I’ve heard of a Sriracha-mayonnaise mix, which has me very interested.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (1.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink is similar to a Michelada, but altogether different, at the same time. While I’m really getting into this Sriracha Vodka, I did not like this drink. I just felt that things didn’t work well together and the taste was off. The beer I chose to use was Red Truck Ale, as I wanted something that would allow the other flavours to take over and take over they did… just not with good results. Back to the Sriracha Vodka, my only qualm is that it’s not actually red, but clear. The bottle is red and I was hoping the alcohol would be too, adding a new element to my collection.

December 13 – Black Death

Better Luck Next Year

Last week, we took a look at the people/groups who are riding high in 2014, enjoying success in their chosen field. This week, we examine the people who suffered (some deservedly and others not) through a tough year and are hoping for better fortune in 2015:

#5: Donald Sterling

One minute, you’re the owner of a NBA franchise (the Los Angeles Clippers) and the next, you’re handed a lifetime ban and being forced to sell the team because you put your foot in your mouth and alienated the league’s players, coaches, and fan base with racist remarks. Sterling and his estranged wife did walk away with $2 billion from the sale, which will help in paying off his $2.5 million fine, levied by the NBA. Sterling is no stranger to controversy, as he’s been sued twice under sexual harassment allegations and been the subject of discrimination lawsuits even before this latest scandal.

donald-sterling

#4: Comedy Community

With the deaths of comedic legends Robin Williams and Joan Rivers coming under a month apart, a lot of laughter was lost this year. While I can’t say that I was a fan of Rivers (I do respect her trailblazing career), I certainly was a Robin Williams supporter. From his stand-up to roles as Mork (Mork & Mindy), Peter Pan (Hook), Alan Parrish (Jumanji), and the voice of the Genie (Aladdin), he had such a lasting presence. The man could even do dramatic roles, as seen in Good Will Hunting, which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and Dead Poets Society. Sadly, the longtime voice of Shaggy (from Scooby Doo), Casey Casem also passed away in 2014.

#3: Roger Goodell & NFL

In the wake of domestic violence and child abuse scandals, the NFL was under intense pressure in 2014 to change a culture that it has let exist for years, with countless player arrests occurring throughout the league. Many groups called for commissioner Roger Goddell to step down from his post after the mishandling of the Ray Rice incident – first suspending the running back for only two games for beating up his now wife, only to extend the suspension indefinitely when a video showing the incident surfaced – and his role in trying to cover up the whole story. That said, business wise, the NFL is thriving and raking in the cash.

NFL Ratings

#2: Ebola Victims

West Africa has been hit hard this year with the potentially deadly Ebola Virus Disease. It must be really bad, because I remember learning that illnesses are either viruses or diseases and it looks like Ebola is covering both sides of that ledger. To this point, thousands have been infected, while close to half of those have died from the sickness. The scariest thing about Ebola is that nobody quite knows how to treat it yet. A vaccine is in development, but has yet to be approved. Mrs. Sip wants to travel to South Africa next September, but we’ll just see about that (as if I have any say!)…

#1: Malaysia Airlines

Despite being voted as having one of the best in-flight services in the industry, Malaysia Airlines has experienced some serious turbulence in 2014, starting with the disappearance of Flight 370, over the Gulf of Thailand. The plane, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, is assumed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board. Just months later, another Malaysia Airlines craft (Flight 17), was shot out of the air with a missile, crashing in the Ukraine and killing 298 passengers and crew. Following a drop in bookings, the airline was forced to cut 6,000 jobs, while other staff have chosen to leave the company.

Super Saturday Shot Day: Black Death

Black Death Shot

  • 1 oz Vodka
  • Splash of Soy Sauce
  • Garnish with a Kiwi Slice

There were others I considered (ie. Israel/Palestine), but in some cases, how is one year shittier than others when you’re constantly at war and such. Who do you think had a miserable 2014? Feel free to respond below.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (0.5 Sips out of 5):
In choosing this shooter, I scoured the internet for the worst recipes out there and this one, while some would immediately think is repulsive, I have an affinity for Soy Sauce, so wanted to give it a try. The only question left was which Vodka should I use, knowing full well that it would probably be wasted in this recipe. I went with my Absolut Texas (Serrano Chile and Cucumber) and that was the only good part of the shot (the lowest score I’ve ever handed out). The Soy Sauce was just way too salty and pushed me to the edge of madness. As for the Kiwi Slice as garnish, I figured why the hell not. No other reason than that!

Japan – Sake Bomb

Rolling Along

Japanese culture has actually offered us so many things. Narrowing down what I was going to cover for the country wasn’t easy and I considered writing about everything from manga comics to game shows to freakin’ origami! There is one Japanese export that has grown more popular than Godzilla and frenemies and that’s sushi. So, grab you chopsticks and join the Sip Advisor for a fine dining experience:

Well, let’s drop a bomb from the start: sushi didn’t originate in Japan. Although we all recognize it as coming from the land of the rising sun and that is in fact where the rolls and cones we enjoy today originated, the act of combining fish with rice (meant to preserve the meat) was invented in Southeast Asia and came to Japan in the 8th century. Sushi in Japan began as a fast food, served at stalls on the street before moving into restaurants and bars.

Cat Licks Sushi

Let’s keep the game changers rolling along (get it? A sushi pun!) with this doozy: sushi doesn’t necessarily mean raw fish. It actually describes the rice, mixed with vinegar, sugar and salt, to make sticky rice, although actual sticky rice is a completely different creation. Still with me?

If you have aspirations of becoming a sushi chef, you likely want to do it anywhere else than Japan. There, hopeful cooks spend two years learning the ins and outs of making the rice, followed by three years working with the fish before their apprenticeship is passed and they can go to work behind a sushi bar. The honour and traditions don’t stop there. Sushi knives come from legendary samurai swords and the blades are sharpened and reshaped each day.

While westerners recognize sushi as being made up of rolls, the Japanese more commonly equate it to the nigiri pieces. Sashimi, of course, means sliced meat and can come in varieties such as beef, chicken, and various vegetables, to go along with all the seafood choices.

The preparation of octopus for sushi often includes a full-body massage by chefs, while the animal is still alive. This proves, once again, that food lives better than the Sip Advisor does!

How To Use Chopsticks

Although I dislike any ginger or wasabi with my sushi, I may have to reconsider. The ginger acts as an antibacterial for the raw fish, killing parasite which may exist, while also cleansing the palette between pieces. Wasabi, meanwhile, has anti-microbial assets and can decrease the risk of food poisoning. Researchers have even used wasabi as a smoke alarm for the deaf, spraying its vapors into a test room, where subject awoke promptly, much like the effects of smelling salts has on a person. This discovery was awarded with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

In most western sushi restaurants, the wasabi you are served isn’t actually wasabi at all. It is a combination of horseradish, mustard, and food colouring. Real wasabi powder is quite expensive, ranging from $50-$100 per pound, making it likely that you would only find it in an upscale joint, if you’d find it at all. I’m not a fan of the green stuff, so this has no impact on me whatsoever, but it kind of makes me feel bad for always throwing out the booger-looking lump… it may have intrinsic value!

Nyotaimori is the act of eating sushi and sashimi off of a naked female model, while Nantaimori, refers to the same practice involving males. Models have to be trained to lie still for hours at a time and be made accustomed to the cold food that will sit on their torso. The deed is popular with members of organized crime in Japan. I once asked Mrs. Sip to be my sushi tray… poor girl ended up with soy sauce in her eyes!

For most young westerners, their first experience with sushi may have been the episode of The Simpsons, ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish,’ where Homer is introduced to the Japanese fare and falls for it so hard that he even requests the poisonous fugu (or puffer fish), which must be dissected perfectly in order to not poison the eater. Although the staff believe that Homer ate the poison (12 times stronger than cyanide) and has only hours to live, he survives his brush with death.

Fugu Funny

That happy ending was not shared by Bandō Mitsugorō VIII, a Japanese Kabuki actor and ‘National Treasure,’ who died after consuming four servings of fugu liver, believing that he was immune to the toxin. Each year, a handful of deaths occur after fugu servings and by law, only licensed chefs should prepare the potentially poisonous fish. Even the Emperor is banned from eating fugu.

Even when not taking the fugu challenge, folks should be cautious about their sushi consumption. Large doses of tuna can lead to mercury poisoning and should be avoided by women who are pregnant or planning to be and young kids. The warning makes it sounds like an amusement park ride… one that I want to be on! All raw fish portions come with the inherent risk of parasites, but it’s a risk that must be taken.

Speaking of tuna, it was once very unpopular and was looked down upon in Japan for being bad luck to eat and a lower class food item. Once a sushi chef named Hanaya Yohei began marinating the ‘chicken of the sea’ in soy sauce, it became a popular menu option.

Today, many places around the world have contributed a roll to the sushi lexicon, including Alaska, British Columbia (hey, that’s where the Sip Advisor gets his sushi!), California, Philadelphia, Seattle, Michigan, Hawaii, etc. Does it say something about the eater depending on which location they choose to order for and represent!?

Nemo Sushi

The seaweed wraps used to bind sushi rolls were originally formed from algae scraped off docks, but nowadays, the element is mass-produced through farming and sold to restaurants in packaged sheets. The seaweed is edible on its own and is sometimes served as a snack closely resembling potato chips, I guess. I mean, I’d much rather have potato chips, given my affinity for the grub, but who am I to criticize.

I absolutely love soy sauce and probably use way too much of it while eating sushi. Interestingly, there is actually soy sauce etiquette… protocols which I have certainly broken and likely offended sushi chefs. First, eaters should only coat the top of their piece with soy sauce, as the condiment is meant to enhance the topping, not the rice. Also, the rice absorbs the sauce quickly and can crumble as a result of getting wet. Finally, sushi prepared with other sauces should not be dunked into soy sauce.

The most expensive sushi ever served was five pieces of nigiri garnished with diamonds and wrapped in 24-karat gold leaf. It was made but chef Angelito Araneta, Jr. in the Phillipines and came in at a whopping price of nearly $2,000 US. Araneta has gained a reputation as the ‘Karat Chef,’ for his lavish creations.

Beginning your meal with a nice hot bowl of Miso Soup seems common, but the Japanese actually end their feast with this dish, as it aids in digestion. Now, enough of this talk about food. Let’s get to some drinking, while we wait for our order to be served!

Japan: Sake Bomb

May 5

  • 1.5 oz Sake
  • 1 Sapporo Beer
  • Garnish with Lime Wheel

Sushi combos have grown in leaps and bounds as the western world latches onto the fad. I once had a chicken strip roll that was drizzled with honey mustard sauce and was spectacular. There are also known recipes for mac and cheese, hamburger, beef, and chicken rolls. The Sip Advisor’s favourite sushi order includes the California Roll (especially if it’s deep fried), Dynamite Roll, and Beef Teriyaki Roll. I know, how very North American of me! What’s your preferred sushi choice?

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
It should be noted that a Japanese beer like Sapporo or Asahi is preferable for a Sake Bomb to truly bring that taste of Japan to your meal. Simply drop the shot of Sake into your brew and slam that sucka! To be honest, I didn’t even notice the Sake while chugging this drink down. I think it would have been pretty light regardless, but all you really get is the beer.

July 21 – Michelada

Beer-telligence

Let’s kick off Beer Cocktail Week on the right note with some education on the… you know what? It’s the middle of summer and I’m trying to get my tan on, so I’m going to go the lazy route with this one (ha ha, very funny, “isn’t that what you always do, Sip man?”). Rather than delight you with facts and trivia I’m able to dig up from around the internet, I’m going to let someone else do my dirty work. So, here’s an infographic from WearYourBeer.com… enjoy!

24 Things You Didn't Know About Beer

Drink #202: Michelada

Michelada Drink Recipe

  • 1 Beer (I used Okanagan Springs 1516 Lager)
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Soy Sauce
  • Dash of Tabasco Sauce
  • Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
  • Pinch of Salt & Pepper
  • Garnish with Lime Wedge

Well, this cocktail is supposed to be perfect for a hangover… thankfully, I never get them. Gotta drink something though. Cheers!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
This is a very interesting beer cocktail. Its ingredients are similar to what you’d throw into a Caesar or Bloody Mary, minus the Clamato or Tomato Juice. That said, I have heard of Michelada versions that include those juices or other alterations and I’d be curious to try some different varieties.