Lisa Murphy (above) came to CHOW's offices in San Francisco last year to show off some delicious ketchup she’d been making under the name Sosu. She was leaving soon for Southeast Asia—to do Sriracha research, she said, to eventually produce some with a Sosu label.
Lisa drifted back to my inbox last month, to tell me about her Kickstarter campaign and with something new to taste: barrel-aged Sriracha, the result of her vision quest in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.
Now, beers and batch cocktails have both been sucked up into the 21st century’s barrel revolution, but hot sauce? [Turns out that Tabasco is also barrel-aged; thanks to bofangels, commenting below, for pointing that out!] “It takes on a brightness from the barrels,” Lisa explained, twisting the lids from samples aged both one month and three in 60-gallon whiskey barrels of uncharred oak. Brightness was the operative word, especially for the three-month, a blast of shimmering heat, with the barest suggestion of funk in the depths. There weren't any oaky or boozy flavors I could detect. And while Lisa does have a charred oak barrel at her Berkeley warehouse, she hasn’t yet aged in it (she thinks customers might have an issue with the little flecks of char from the staves).
Apart from the brightness of barrel aging, the thing that struck me most about Lisa's Sriracha had to do with the fermentation that happened before the chiles (red jalapeños and Fresnos from Northern California farms) even made it to wood. Like kimchi, the chile mash develops complex flavor and a thicker texture as it sits. “If you don’t ferment, the flavors just hit you,” Lisa says. After fermenting and aging in wood, Sosu’s barrel-aged Sriracha hits you in the best way.
Sosu Sauces ketchups and Srirachas are available at shops in the Bay Area.
Photos courtesy of Sosu Sauces