Monday, February 14, 2011

Sriracha Roundup and Surprise Winner -- For Now! Including UIF Uncle Chen's Sriracha ...

Union International Food Co. Sriracha Chili Sauce

Just after I had published Sriracha Redux, I finally received another cult favorite Sriracha that I had been waiting for, and for a while, too. The Union International Food Co Sriracha that goes under the name Uncle Chen's, and this product, which has exactly the same bottle style and label, including the little Pepper Face (of Uncle Chen, I guess, with mustache and stem), but without the actual Uncle Chen name on the bottle, I believe to be the same. So I call it UIF Sriracha, or Uncle Chen's. Any of you out there who know better, let me know.

I like this stuff. It has good balance, a big flavor and it's not too sweet, although it does have some sweetness. It has a lot of the great bright fresh pepper flavor of the Huy Fong Sriracha, but without the flaw of bitterness I had noted in my first review. I have tried it on burgers, eggs, in mayonnaise, made an Aioli with it, eaten it straight out of the bottle. It's really good. A little less sweet, a little saltier at first, maybe a little less hot. The finish is garlicky, sweet, and has some heat.

It's got a little thermometer right on the side showing medium heat, and I have to confess I wouldn't mind it being a little hotter, but maybe such a hotter UIF Sriracha is available, some place, somewhere. Meantime I can like this one.

OK, I got mine from Amazon! Had to buy a 6-pack of 6 oz squeeze bottles -- I'm not sorry to have them now -- and when I went back to the Amazon page for the UIF Sriracha, I got the dreaded message.

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So the good news is that I do have 6 bottles; the bad news is -- where am I going to get my next 6? Still, I have time ... and, yes, I did do some pretty thorough web searches for the stuff.

I do apologize for recommending this stuff just as it seems to disappear from the market. Still, think of it as my way of soliciting help locating it.

I also have a confession to make regarding Huy Fong Sriracha -- I picked up a new bottle to compare it head-to-head with these other brands, and I like it much more than the older stuff I had reviewed back in March of last year. I dug the older bottle out from the back of my fridge and discovered, lo and behold, that the old HF Sriracha is indeed considerably more bitter than the stuff in the new bottle I just bought. In fact, with the still remaining Jalapeno bitterness much more in the background, the wonderful bright ripe red pepper fruit flavor is fantastic and makes it my favorite Sriracha, at least for the squeeze bottle I just bought!

I feel badly about possibly having rated the HF Sriracha on the basis of an extreme and unusual sample of the sauce, but, hey, I did it on the basis of 2 bottles I had purchased at different times (a week apart from the same store), and I can only rate what I taste!

What this means long term, I have no idea -- do I have to worry about consistency, and will the HF Sriracha I buy be bitter again next time around? Don't know. Never ran into this issue before. Still, I am going to do a Sriracha ranking based on my current sample.

So, my ranking of Srirachas I have tried places them in this order:

1.   Huy Fong -- Highly Recommended 
2.  UIF (Uncle Chen's) -- Highly Recommended
3.  Shark Brand -- Recommended
4.  Bells and Flower Brand -- Not recommended

Note that both of my favorites are domestically produced -- the UIF Uncle Chen's Sriracha at their Hayward, CA plant, and the HF Sriracha at the Rosemead, CA plant, and the flavor is much more pronounced, much bigger and fresher than that of the Thai "originals".

Next time, I'm going to post my recipes for 2 Srirachas, 2 US Farang Brand Srirachas, one PDQ recipe, and one let's-take-our-time fermented pepper recipe.

Yours in Heat and Flavor, 


Photo Credits: UIF Sriracha c/o and my screen capture

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