In this year of Cronuts, Ramenburgers, and other trendy Frankenfoods it’s easy to lose sight of one major story: the death of Sriracha. That’s right Rooster Sauce as some call the concoction of red hot jalapeños, garlic, and vinegar is over. Grab a seat at your favorite pho joint, cover your eyes, and stick a fork in the squeeze bottle because it’s just done. The demise of the fiery sauce that has had a place everywhere from cheap dumpling houses and Vietnamese joints to the kitchens of chefs like Michael Voltaggio and Jean-Georges Vongerichten occurred last month. And it had nothing to with the partial closure of the company’s plant in Irwindale, Calif., a few weeks ago. It started when Subway introduced a line of sandwiches using creamy Sriracha sauce. Some might argue that it began way before that with Lay’s Sriracha potato chips and Sriracha candy canes. I’ll leave such quibbling to those better versed in food trends. After all, today’s column is about a sandwich. And the sandwich in question is Subway’s Sriracha Chicken Melt.
“The King of Hot Sauces is Dead. Long Live the King of Hot Sauces,” I gleefully Instagrammed when I spied an ad for Subway’s Sriracha-spiked creation. Almost from the very start I was of two minds regarding the sandwich. My initial reaction, “There’s no way in hell Mr. Authenticity is going to try that,” was soon supplanted by “Hey, melty pepperjack cheese over tender chicken with fiery Sriracha sauce sounds kind of good.”
“Do you have any Indonesian food?” I asked the guy behind the counter at my local Subway. It might seem an odd question to ask someone working behind the counter of a fast-food sandwich shop, but his family hails from Makassar, Indonesia. They once ran one of the craziest fusion spots in Jackson Heights, Tropika Grill n’ Café. Tropika served Indonesian fare styled for the Latino locals, thus beef rendang was also translated to carne de res de Indonesia, and sides included such South American fare as fried yucca.
“Why yes, yes I would like more Sriracha the better to mask the taste of utter defeat,” I thought to myself when asked if I’d like an extra blast of Sriracha mayo after my sandwich came out of the toaster oven. Squishy bread and wan chicken do not make for a good sandwich. Still it was one of the better fast food sandwiches I’ve had, mainly because of that fiery Sriracha mayo. As much as I’d like to see my local Subway start making beef rendang sandwiches, I know it ain’t gonna happen. So before they run out of Rooster Sauce, I’m going to get over there and try the Sriracha Steak Melt.
Oh , and even though I said I don’t know much about trendspotting, here’s a prognostication. A Vietnamese sandwich will emerge at national chain in 2014. More likely it will have a name along the lines of Southeast Asian Steak Sizzler. Remember you heard it here first.