Until they discovered sriracha in their respective university cafeterias, Shauna Ward of Williams Bay, Wisc., and Tiffany Thompson of West Springfield didn’t know the Thai chile sauce existed. Now each keeps a large bottle close by. “I use it pretty much on everything I make that is bland — which is pretty much everything,” says Ward, a Boston University senior. Thompson, a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, thinks sriracha gives everything a little extra zing, and it goes on “anything that I want spicy,” she says.
It’s that zing that makes sriracha a favorite among chefs. Suzi Maitland of Trina’s Starlite Lounge infuses her aioli with the puree of chiles, garlic, vinegar, and sugar for her Somerville restaurant menu. Matthew Gaudet of West Bridge, in Cambridge, mixes it into his miso barbecue sauce. Brookline restaurateur Deborah Hansen of Taberno de Haro adds it to a Spanish omelet. The signature sauce at the new brick-and-mortar Mei Mei Street Kitchen in Boston is a mix of sriracha and ketchup.
Sriracha is the go-to sauce of the moment. And though dozens of companies make the chile-garlic condiment, for aficionados, only one brand matters: Huy Fong Foods’ jalapeno red sauce with a rooster logo and green cap. Rooster Sauce, its most familiar moniker, may be temporarily in short supply. Shipments were halted last month to meet a federal health code after a review of the California firm’s new manufacturing process. The hashtag #srirachapocalypse quickly lit up social media.
Current Rooster Sauce woes began after the company opened a $40 million plant last summer in Irwindale, Calif., in Los Angeles County. Neighbors complained about the odor, then the state Department of Public Health advised owner Dave Tran that his uncooked sauce needs to sit for 30 days to be bacteria-free before shipping. Maitland immediately ordered extra cases; ditto Andrew Li, co-owner of Mei Mei’s.
All that remains available of Rooster Sauce bottles is currently on store shelves, in Asian markets like C Mart, in the South End, and in supermarket chains. The C Mart manager says his stock won’t last long and Boston-based wholesale restaurant supplier Food-Pak is sold out. But shipments will soon resume. “We are looking forward to being able to release the product at the end of the month,” a Huy Fong spokesperson writes in an e-mail.
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