Hot Take: Sriracha, Climate Change and Comfort Food

On days when climate anxiety is running high, I hold on tight to my coffee mug. I wonder what days without coffee and chocolate would be like, immediately check my privilege and go down a bleaker path. News of food shortages are becoming a lot more common, but I didn’t anticipate stories on ‘How to survive the Sriracha shortage…’

I purchased the fiery chilli paste by accident a few years back. It led to a search for recipes, a few tries, a lot of tweaks and pruning and finally a recipe that made its place in my arsenal. It didn’t take long, had both sweet and spicy overtones, and the family loved it. Only a few recipes you try actually make the cut. So I wasn’t looking to sacrifice one more comfort food in the coming years.

As it turned out, the shortage was restricted to Huy Fong, which grows peppers in southern US and northern Mexico, both of which had been impacted by a mega drought last year. According to the IPCC, climate change-induced droughts are already a major driver of food insecurity. Millets, which are being promoted as a climate resilient solution, are facing problems of their own.

Coming back to Sriracha, I was simply unaware of its popularity around the globe. Turns out that Huy Fong, founded by Vietnamese-American immigrant David Tran, was single-handedly responsible for the clout of Sriracha in the US. It’s the third biggest hot sauce after Tabasco and RedHot there. The origins of the sauce, of course, are far off, in the sea side city of Si Racha. Ironically, the US brand is now being exported to Thailand.

The reason I’m talking about this now is that I’m back in the kitchen after a long absence. In my hand is a bowl of steaming rice, topped with Sriracha chicken. For now, all is good. However, before we lose all things hot and sweet, here’s the recipe, shared in public interest.

Recipe: Sriracha chicken

250 g boneless chicken
3-4 tbsp Sriracha sauce
3 tsp sugar
6-7 cloves of garlic, chopped
Assorted veggies (capsicum, onion, baby corn, mushroom etc)
1 cup water
1 tsp pepper
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
Salt to taste
Spring onion greens

Marinate the chicken with salt, pepper and cornflour for 20 mins. Shallow fry in a pan and set aside.
Add olive oil to a dish. Now add garlic, veggies and saute for a bit.
Add soy sauce, sriracha, sugar and water and let it simmer. Once, the curry thickens, add the fried chicken pieces.
Mix 2 tsps of cornflour in water and add to the pan. Cook till you get the desired consistency. Garnish with spring onion greens.
Serve with burnt garlic rice or steamed rice.

Ps: I prefer Pantai to Huy Fong and Real Thai, but it’s not always available.

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