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Sriracha is for Losers

Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 03:09 PM

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. Richard 16 RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 03:19 PM

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

    1. JoanN RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 03:30 PM

      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
        Eat_Nopal RE: JoanN Sep 12, 2008 03:44 PM

        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
          MMRuth RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 03:47 PM

          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
            Eat_Nopal RE: MMRuth Sep 12, 2008 03:51 PM

            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
              MMRuth RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 03:56 PM

              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.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal
                linguafood RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 14, 2008 08:22 AM

                Maybe it's brown rice vinegar.

            2. re: Eat_Nopal
              JoanN RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 04:15 PM

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

              1. re: Eat_Nopal
                Sam Fujisaka RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 04:35 PM

                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
                  Eat_Nopal RE: Sam Fujisaka Sep 12, 2008 04:46 PM

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

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal
                    Sam Fujisaka RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 05:13 PM

                    Ahh... que bien! Entiendo!

            3. alkapal RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 03:54 PM

              might the darker color come from oxidization, or tamarind?

              1 Reply
              1. re: alkapal
                Eat_Nopal RE: alkapal Sep 12, 2008 03:59 PM

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

              2. chefschickie RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 03:59 PM

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

                4 Replies
                1. re: chefschickie
                  Ali RE: chefschickie Sep 12, 2008 04:20 PM

                  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
                    Eat_Nopal RE: Ali Sep 12, 2008 04:45 PM

                    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
                      dustchick RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 10:54 PM

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

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal
                        Ali RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 14, 2008 12:20 PM

                        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. alanbarnes RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 04:36 PM

                    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
                      Eat_Nopal RE: alanbarnes Sep 12, 2008 04:45 PM

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

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal
                        alanbarnes RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 05:19 PM

                        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
                          luckyfatima RE: alanbarnes Sep 12, 2008 09:25 PM

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

                        2. re: Eat_Nopal
                          Scargod RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 13, 2008 12:55 PM

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

                      2. Gio RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 05:10 PM

                        What? You say that now? After that loooong post where you praised Sriracha to the heavens and said that Tabasco was the worst? And here I sit with the 3rd bottle of Sriracha in the fridge because I was determined to try to like it and now do. You turned the tables and have your eyes on another? Arrrrggggghhhh.... (O_O) I don't even have to look up the correct spelling any more. All because of you. Now you have spurned Sriracha. What evil lurks.......

                        1. luckyfatima RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 09:24 PM

                          Wow, I was sooo afraid to say it because so many ppl think Sriracha is like crack! But to me it is too heavily vinegar laden and that alters the food in a bad way unless you want a hot and sour element! I use it in some things, but really the homemade stuff without all the vinegar is much better.

                          Yes, the real deal is tuong ot toi, and I have seen some friends' moms make it before along the lines of the way alanbarnes describes it above, with fresh red chilies and all in the blender. watch out because when you blend it the fiery heat wafts into the air and can poke your eye out. The color darkens with age. The sugar, salt, and (tiny amount) of vinegar preserve it, so it lasts a long time.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: luckyfatima
                            moh RE: luckyfatima Sep 13, 2008 05:32 AM

                            It might be that whether one uses dried or fresh chiles depends on what one has on hand or prefers. The condiment might be the same, but variations can and do occur. I would have my doubts that there is one single version of this condiment. Just as there are different versions of hot lime pickles, Korean dipping sauces, etc. Variety - a boon, but also a bane when you find the perfect combination of ingredients, but then are unable to recreate it.

                            1. re: luckyfatima
                              MMRuth RE: luckyfatima Sep 13, 2008 05:38 AM

                              Here are some recipes for and photos of tuong ot toi:


                              One recipe uses raw chilies, the other cooked ones.

                              1. re: MMRuth
                                toodie jane RE: MMRuth Sep 13, 2008 10:34 AM


                                could this sauce be frozen in ice cube trays for later use?

                                how long would the fresh pepper sauce last in the fridge? a week maybe?

                                1. re: toodie jane
                                  MMRuth RE: toodie jane Sep 13, 2008 10:42 AM

                                  I don't know, actually - but you want want to ask on the COTM thread for sauces by Nguyen this month:


                                  I've not tried this recipe yet.

                            2. janeBee RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 12, 2008 11:18 PM

                              it definitely sounds like Tuong Ot Toi (garli chili)

                              here's a pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sorrydad...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: janeBee
                                Melanie Wong RE: janeBee Sep 13, 2008 12:27 AM

                                Nope, that's a different condiment.

                              2. Melanie Wong RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 13, 2008 12:22 AM

                                Teochew Chinese/Viet restaurants often make their own satay (aka saday, sacha, sate') condiment and you can buy it by the jar to take home. That's the dark colored (dried chili based with many other salted and pickled elements) condiment in the small pots. It's totally different than the Malay/Indonesian style satay sauce. I've recently posted about the versions at Toon Kee and Sun San in San Francisco. Sriracha has its place, and I would use it in a different way than saday sauce.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  luckyfatima RE: Melanie Wong Sep 13, 2008 02:04 AM

                                  Melanie, that one IS with dried chilies, garlic, and oil, right?

                                  1. re: luckyfatima
                                    dolores RE: luckyfatima Sep 13, 2008 04:14 AM

                                    Loser perhaps, but then the very kind Asian ladies and gentlemen wouldn't always -- I guess I look the gringo -- point out to me 'you know that's very hot' when I'm picking up my bottle of Sriracha in the local Asian grocery.

                                    That's worth the price of admission.

                                    1. re: dolores
                                      Scargod RE: dolores Sep 13, 2008 12:53 PM

                                      In Dallas, in the 60's, we would ask for more "soup" when the salsa disappeared before the chips. That raised a few eyebrows!

                                    2. re: luckyfatima
                                      luckyfatima RE: luckyfatima Sep 13, 2008 05:23 AM

                                      Melanie: Oh it occurred to me, is that the one with dried chili, chicken broth, soya sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger and oil blitzed together? If it is that, that stuff is magical and beats Sriracha anytime.

                                      1. re: luckyfatima
                                        Melanie Wong RE: luckyfatima Sep 13, 2008 08:58 AM

                                        Here's a reader's reverse-engineered version on vietworldkitchen,

                                        The ones I've seen seem like all dried chiles and little fresh, looking coarser, denser, and darker in color. Also, this recipe doesn't add dried shrimp, anchovies, salted cabbage hearts, pickled turnips, black beans, or any of the umami-rich seasonings that make it so unique to each chef and addictive, and uses MSG and fish sauce instead.

                                        I had a dyslexic moment in my earlier post, the restaurant in SF is San Sun (not Sun San).

                                        edited to add: Looking further on the vietworld kitchen site, Andrea says that sate sauce "vietnamese" dishes were invented abroad, which I doubt. I wouldn't put peanuts in it as she concocts here (and says she's not had it before but made up this recipe).
                                        Again, where I've seen it in the SF Bay Area is at Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants. These are run by ethnic Teochew people whose families immigrated to Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia in the Ming dynasty (400+ years ago). So, I don't think it was invented in the US, but perhaps part of Chinese culinary culture in Vietnam and not among ethnic Vietnamese. Hu tieu hai san sate is a Teochew soup.

                                      2. re: luckyfatima
                                        Melanie Wong RE: luckyfatima Sep 13, 2008 09:00 AM

                                        And many other things. The sambal oelek-type sauces that others are describing are a whole other thing, like you'd use with Hainan chicken. EN's looking for satay sauce, which is more like an oily paste than a sauce.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                          fresnohotspot RE: Melanie Wong Sep 13, 2008 10:10 PM

                                          The Spicy Rooster (a more innocent nickname than that used by most fellow diners), is just the starting base. We have added more chili flakes, hoisin, and one of my Korean buddies likes to add the puree of an Asian pear and minced garlic. He continues to have trouble finding people with whom to converse.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                            alanbarnes RE: Melanie Wong Sep 14, 2008 08:03 AM

                                            Okay, EN, looks like we're at an impasse without further info from you--is the stuff you're chowing down more like salsa, or is it an "oily paste"?

                                      3. w
                                        wayne keyser RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 13, 2008 09:53 PM

                                        It's generally sold as "Chili Paste With Garlic" - maybe without garlic sometimes, but in broad terms it's ground chili peppers instead of Sriracha's pureed chili peppers.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: wayne keyser
                                          dolores RE: wayne keyser Sep 14, 2008 08:30 AM

                                          So this other stuff is for sale? In Asian groceries?

                                          So I look for 'tuong ot toi'?

                                          1. re: dolores
                                            MMRuth RE: dolores Sep 14, 2008 08:36 AM

                                            I don't know if we're sure that what EN had was this or not.

                                            I was reading Pham this morning, and she refers to 'tuong ot toi' as chili paste, ground - and says that it is made with "coarsely ground (unseeded) red chilies, garlic and vinegar." She recommends the Rooster brand. 'Tuong ot' is chili sauce aka Sriracha sauce, and she said that it is a "smooth puree of seeded red chilies, vinegar, garlic and sugar".

                                            Does anyone know what 'toi' means?

                                            Looking forward to EN reporting back.

                                            1. re: MMRuth
                                              alanbarnes RE: MMRuth Sep 14, 2008 08:53 AM

                                              Toi (actually, tỏi) is garlic.

                                              1. re: alanbarnes
                                                MMRuth RE: alanbarnes Sep 14, 2008 08:55 AM

                                                Thank you. I wonder if that means that there is more garlic in tuong ot toi than in tuong ot?

                                                1. re: MMRuth
                                                  alanbarnes RE: MMRuth Sep 14, 2008 09:07 AM

                                                  "Tuong ot" just means chili sauce. Maybe it's assumed that if you don't specify anything else you're talking about Sriracha, but If you look at the bottle it says "tuong ot Sriracha," or Sriracha chili sauce. (Sriracha is a city in Thailand.)

                                        2. alanbarnes RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 14, 2008 08:25 AM

                                          One other thought--in high school I had a recently-immigrated friend who mixed Sriracha and hoisin together and dipped everything in it--he called it "Vietnamese ketchup." I made bun for dinner last night and, inspired by this thread, used tuong ot toi instead of Sriracha to make the spicy-sweet dip. It may not be what you're talking about, but it was pretty consistent with your description. And quite delicious.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: alanbarnes
                                            FriedClamFanatic RE: alanbarnes Sep 14, 2008 09:11 AM

                                            I've done that combo with a little honey, a tiny amount of bottled BBQ sauce and some extra garlic. It's great on ribs.

                                          2. LA Buckeye Fan RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 14, 2008 02:35 PM

                                            Don't know what the sauce is called. But color me a loser. :)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: LA Buckeye Fan
                                              MattInNJ RE: LA Buckeye Fan Sep 16, 2008 06:30 AM

                                              Same here..

                                            2. k
                                              kirkj RE: Eat_Nopal Sep 16, 2008 12:09 PM

                                              I made this one and it was a winner.


                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: kirkj
                                                fresnohotspot RE: kirkj Sep 16, 2008 03:13 PM

                                                thanks for the link, the pictures look awesome, and I can't wait to try my hand at concocting the lemongrass chili sauce... my mouth is actually watering as I think about this.

                                                1. re: kirkj
                                                  bitsubeats RE: kirkj Sep 16, 2008 04:38 PM

                                                  that recipe looks amazing. I think I'm going to try it out. I am going to mix it with some mayo and dip dried squid in it. yum yum

                                                2. t
                                                  Talty RE: Eat_Nopal Aug 4, 2009 10:09 AM

                                                  They tend to buy Sriracha (or a similar sauce) in bulk then put in smaller jars. It is important to note that on a trip to Vietnam in 1999, I would see Sriracha on the tables of tiny restaurants in small towns. A good example of quality of this brand such that it is exported from the US to Vietnam.

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