Sriracha: The condiment of choice for heat seekers

The recipe of the week flavors corn chowder with Thailand's famous sauce.

While a “squirt or two over a bowl of fried rice or ramen is most common,” sriracha is a condiment that’s fast becoming a regular tool in many cooks’ arsenal, said Randy Clemens in The Sriracha Cookbook (Ten Speed Press). Widely known as “rooster sauce,” thanks to the proud bird that adorns the squeezable bottles of America’s most popular brand, the crimson-red Thai pepper sauce is being used in creative ways by “very upscale chefs.”

Sriracha, pronounced “see-RAH-chuh,” is a pureed sauce of peppers, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt that’s native to Sri Racha, a port city in Thailand with “an affinity for hot chile pastes.” The version most Americans know was created in the 1970s by David Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant to Los Angeles. It’s prized for its combination of sweetness, “garlic pungency, and just the right amount of spice.”

Like ketchup, sriracha is versatile: It can be drizzled on chicken wings or squiggled on a margarita. Here, it binds well with the sweetness and “smoky undertones” of grilled corn, creating a chowder you will crave “even on the warmest of days.”

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Recipe of the week

Fire-roasted corn chowder

8 ears fresh sweet corn, husked

2 tbsp olive oil

2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced

2 red onions, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups vegetable stock

½ cup sriracha, plus more for garnish

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Smoked paprika, for garnish

Fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Roast 4 ears of corn over a direct flame—on a preheated grill or gas burner—until kernels begin to blacken. Turn the ears every few minutes. After the roasted ears have cooled, scrape kernels from the cobs and reserve.

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bell peppers and onions, and cook until softened slightly, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, scrape corn kernels from remaining 4 ears of corn. Add raw corn kernels and garlic, and cook until garlic is aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Add stock, sriracha, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to boil, lower heat, and simmer 45 minutes. About 10 minutes before soup is finished, gently heat cream over low heat, keeping it just below simmer.

Once soup has cooked for 45 minutes, discard thyme and bay leaves. Puree soup using an immersion blender. (A food processor or blender can also be used—with caution, due to the soup’s temperature.) Mix in warm cream and add reserved roasted corn. Cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until thoroughly heated.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a few squirts of sriracha, a generous sprinkle of smoked paprika, and torn cilantro or parsley leaves. Serves 6.

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