What was life like before Sriracha?

I’ve been lucky to live my entire life with Sriracha available (Wikipedia says Huy Fong was founded in 1980, and I was born 8 years later) and quite popular. But I’ve never been able to figure out what people were using before Sriracha, especially since the two other Asian hot sauces that are most common in restaurants and stores that I’ve seen are also made by Huy Fong.

My mother claims nobody put hot sauce on their takeout Chinese food back before Sriracha, unless you were at a restaurant that made its own chili oil. Somehow that doesn’t seem right, knowing how many people here like hot foods.

So: what did people use prior to the introduction of the one, the only, the magnificent Sriracha?

I remember seeing chili paste/chili and garlic paste (aka sambal oelek) in little covered jars with small serving spoons, along with hot mustard and sweet and sour sauce.

First off, there were sriracha sauces before Huy Fong, and there are still non-Huy Fong srirachas available in this country. It’s entirely possible that some people used them before Huy Fong was founded. They are, however, in the minority in this country.

Before my family discovered sriracha, we either ordered the spicy dishes, so the restaurant used whatever spices it had, used Tabasco sauce or similar (a red pepper and salt dissolved in vinegar) (obviously on take-out dishes), or just ate it mild. Tabasco-style sauces were indisputably the kings of hot sauces in my family before sriracha came along, and they’re still used fairly often. I don’t remember using a lot of chili oil, but I’m sure some people did.

Life was sort of option-poor. My dad really only liked the “hot peppers in a bottle of vinegar” hot sauce or would settle for regular Tabasco. So that’s what I had.

Then, college. I was able to try hot sauces with… FLAVOR! And my taste buds have been begging for mercy ever since.

Oh, for takeout - my family wasn’t into spicy food (I had to go to college before I tasted honestly spicy food), so I don’t recall what was done at the time. I suspect other people who liked spicy food went with Tabasco sauce, like others mentioned. I’ve also seen tiny disposable plastic cups with snap-on tops, with a little chili oil in them.

It was dark and cold there was no life upon the land.

The ‘house hot oil’ or ‘house chili oil’. Sriracha is something that I’ve enjoyed for the only the past 11 years, but the world of hot sauce was just small (and runny) until the 1990’s. There was definitely a chili sauce expansion in the 90’s. I think the Food Network played a role in that.


Most places I know of had (and most still have) something very similar to Sriracha but it was made in house.

There was one place that had an awesome sweet hot sauce. As near as I can tell they took all the glop out af a couple big cans of cherry pie filling (minus the cherries) mixed in an absolute boatload of various crushed dried chillis and let it sit for a week or so till it all melded together. Hot as shit but REALLY tasty.

My korean aunt used Tabasco, a really big jar every month. And peppers, fresh and dried. Nothing at her house was not hot.

You made your own or did without. As runner noted, it was a bleak and desolate time.

I know of at least 3 companies that make sriracha sauce, because that’s the number of different bottles we have in the house.

For Chinese takeout, I don’t remember any kind of hot sauce being included. In fact, I still don’t remember getting anything other than mustard, sweet and sour, and soy sauce in Chinese take-out. I like sriracha, but not really on Chinese food.

Most places would have homemade hot chili oil. For take-out, you just had to ask for some in a little plastic cup or something.

I like to use Sriracha on Chinese food that is disgustingly bland and flavorless. Otherwise, I prefer a more conventional hot chili oil/paste, to enhance the flavor and tongue-sation.

The standard was to cut up a big ol’ honking jar of red hot chili peppers and let them marinate in soy sauce (for Chinese).

If you went to an Asian market, you could find all kinds of chili paste or sauce. You still can. it wasn’t like Sriracha was the first pepper sauce on the market.

my asian parents still don’t like to use siracha. they prefer the chili bean paste, as do a lot of other asian parents i know (from snooping around friends’ kitchens). so i’m guessing chili oil and chili paste mostly, if you’re asking from an asian point of view.

When we wished to flavor our food, we ate ashes and drank tears.

And lo, the lamentations of the tastebuds cried out mightily.