LIANE HANSEN, host:
Across the country today at Super Bowl parties, fans will consume millions of pounds of chicken wings. Many of them may be made with a spicy sauce that threatens to push ketchup off the shelf. WEEKEND EDITION food commentator Bonny Wolf explains.
BONNY WOLF: Ketchup used to be the condiment of choice for Americans. Ronald Reagan wanted to classify it as a vegetable; Richard Nixon used to pour it on cottage cheese. Now, many eaters have found an alternative: sriracha.
You've seen it - that clear plastic squeeze bottle with the burnt-orange chili-garlic sauce, the one with a rooster on the front and that bright green cap. There are other brands, but this is the one people usually mean when they talk about sriracha.
This sriracha sauce first appeared about 30 years ago in Vietnamese restaurants in the U.S., where diners would squirt a little into their pho, Vietnam's popular noodle soup. Slowly - but very steadily - it moved into the mainstream. Now you don't have to go to an Asian market to find sriracha. Just pick up a bottle at Wal-Mart or Safeway. Sriracha is becoming a staple condiment in American homes, right next to the mustard and mayo.
I've heard of sriracha being put into oatmeal and used in Rice Krispie treats. I've had it on scrambled eggs and sprinkled on popcorn - both of which I highly recommend. And I'm sure you remember the episode of "Top Chef" when Casey made sriracha ice cream.
If you need inspiration, there's now "The Sriracha Cookbook" with recipes for sriracha and Spam fried rice, deviled eggs and, of course, chicken wings. The author writes: There are those of us who love sriracha, and then there are those of us who need sriracha. You can get your sriracha fix at restaurants, too - from fancy New York hotspots to Applebee's.
The sriracha entrepreneur is David Tran, who is ethnically Chinese but was born in Vietnam and now lives in California. Sriracha is actually a port town in Thailand known for its chili sauce. Are you with me? Tran came to the U.S. on a boat called Huy Fong, now the name of his company. The rooster on the bottle is his Chinese zodiac sign, and some people just call it rooster sauce. Sales continue to grow.
I asked devotees: why this sauce? To summarize their response: it's heat with flavor. Perfect for chicken wings.
HANSEN: Bonny Wolf is author of "Talking with My Mouth Full" and editor of NPR's Kitchen Window.
Go to our website, NPR.org for a sriracha recipe that will give your wings a kick.
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HANSEN: This is NPR News.
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