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Sep 12, 2008 03:09 PM

Sriracha is for Losers

I have noticed the better Vietnamese restaurants will have "mustard jars" of what seems like home made "salsa". As oppossed to Sriracha its got a clean flavor and lots of textural contrasts with flecks of chile & seeds... it certainly has garlic & maybe other spices... but overall it has such a clean, absolutely delicious flavor that I can't resist just sipping with one hand while drying the sweat off my forehead with the other.

Does anybody know what this sauce is called? The following blogger makes a homemade Viet style sauce... hers is a bit less coarse.. and lacks the deeper mahogany color of the sauce I am describing.

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  1. I like a lot of different hot sauces and spices, including Sriracha. Guess I'm a loser. :::sigh:::

    1. In "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen," one of two Vietnamese cookbooks that are this month's cookbooks of the month, Andrea Nguyen has a recipe for what she calls a dipping sauce that has the following ingredients:

      1/3 cup fresh lime juice (2 or 3 limes)
      1 tablespoon unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar (optional)
      3 tablespoons sugar
      2/3 cup lukewarm water
      5 to 6 tablespoons fish sauce
      2 or 3 Thai chilies, thinly sliced
      2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

      She goes into some detail explaining that these quantities are just a guideline to help you develop your own version depending on how you prefer your balance of sour, sweet, salty, and spicy.

      I'm not sure where the deep mahogany color would come from, unless it's from one of the darker, stronger brands of fish sauce. Or it could be that they have another ingredient in there. Hoisin, perhaps?

      9 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        The mahogany color comes form the dried chiles used. The version I am describing would have minimal sugar or fish sauce.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Hmm - none of the sauces that I've seen in Pham's book (one of the two COTM books) calls for dried chilies, nor do any of the recipes. Some recipes call for a caramel sauce, but I've not read that that is incorporated into a dipping or other sauce.

          Edit - I wonder if the color could come from a dark soy sauce - such as a sweet soy sauce - that is called for in some recipes?

          1. re: MMRuth

            Thats it.... next time I go to a Vietnamese place I will take pictures of it and post... heck they might even provide me a recipe guideline.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Thanks - please do take photos and/or ask them what is in the sauce. It would be interesting to know. I'll take a look tomorrow again at the sauces in the book to see if I'm missing something that might be what you are thinking of.

            2. re: Eat_Nopal

              Vietnamese restaurant? Minimal fish sauce? I'll believe it when you pry the recipe out of them. :-)

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                Estimado E N, try to go with the flow! Hawai'i was mostly Asian when I was growing up. You've got to learn that fish sauce and sometimes lots of it is a basic in many parts of SE Asia. Abrazos!

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I like fish sauce... but the sauces described below are eons better than the brands of Sriracha I've tried.

            3. might the darker color come from oxidization, or tamarind?

              1 Reply
              1. re: alkapal

                Tamarind is certainly a posibility... but to stress there are flecks of (partially) rehydrated dried chiles.

              2. Maybe it's Sambal Oelek? Used in Indonesian Cuisine as well...

                4 Replies
                1. re: chefschickie

                  I thought about that, but sambal oelek lack the "deeper mahogany color" EN described.

                  I'm thinking it's a variant of something called "ớt sate" or "sate ớt" that's made with dried chili, lemongrass, and garlic all cooked in oil. See picture:

                  1. re: Ali

                    That is very close. The particular versions I liked had a little more of murky (less oily translucent) body... but we are very close.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      Perhaps more like sambal badjak? It's darker than sambal oelek and is dried chili-based.

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        Hm. I called my mother just to see if she knew, and in her words, there are no Vietnamese hot sauce that looks similar to the sate sauce but is not made with oil as you cannot cook up the chilies and such without oil. (Of course, we're all southerners, so maybe that's the problem.) I'm stumped so am stuck with my original answer that it's a variant of the sate sauce, either made without oil completely or made with less oil and have some other liquid added.

                  2. If we're talking about the same stuff, it's called tuong ot toi. The simplest version is just fresh whole ot hiem (Southeast Asian hot red chile peppers) and garlic, ground together with salt, sugar, and/or vinegar as needed.

                    There are probably as many versions as there are cooks, but dried chiles are a new one on me. As a matter of fact, I don't think dried chiles are often used in traditional Vietnamese cooking, but I may be mistaken.

                    As far as I know "tuong ot toi" and "sambal oelek" are just the Vietnamese and Indonesian names for the same thing. Many Vietnamese restaurants have a big jug of Huy Fong brand sambal oelek in the back from which they refill those mustard jars.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      So the picture above doesn't strike you as dried chile based?

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        The stuff in Ali's picture definitely looks like it's made from dried chiles. Shows how much I know.

                        I haven't seen or heard of ot sate before. Maybe it's a regional thing?

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          no I have seen it made at home before, it is definately fresh chilies.

                        2. re: Eat_Nopal

                          Fresh. Could the color have come from Keycap Manis? Was it sweet, at all?