You've seen it on the table at Asian restaurants forever. It's time you get to know Sriracha, named after the Thai seaside town Si Racha, where it was first produced as a local product, although the best-selling brand today is actually not an import, but made near Los Angeles.
Before you pick up that red bottle with the rooster on it, know that this stuff is for fans of high-octane heat. It's made from sun-ripened chilies which are ground with vinegar and salt then blended with garlic and sugar into a smooth paste. Aside from dipping your summer roll into it, you can put it on egg and buttered popcorn, whisk it into dipping sauces to lend an extra punch, or even squirt some into your beer. Think of it like you do Tabasco, except a tad sweeter.
David Tran, Vietnamese immigrant of Chinese descent, has been making the sauce from his family-run company, Huy Fong Foods in California, since 1980. Before that, he was making the sauce in Vietnam, however he and his family escaped in 1979 because the new Communist government was hostile to Chinese immigrants.
(Recipes using Sriracha from Huy Fong Foods)