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Sriracha: It’s Not a Pepper, But it’s Hot and Sweet

Ronit was raised in a Moroccan home, where she grew up helping her mother cook the family meals. Traditional Moroccan food calls for many spices, and Ronit became comfortable with all of them and their different uses in the kitchen. But she never imagined that spices would become both her life’s work and her art form.

After coming to the U.S. as a young woman, Ronit studied oil painting in college. Then she met Shuli, who was raised on a spice farm in Israel. The couple started working together and founded Whole Spice in 2000.

“I discovered that what I had learned about painting could also apply to blending spices,” Ronit recalls. With flavor and aroma as well as color and texture to work with, she started trying different combinations of freshly ground spices. Her original blends, including African Curry, Istanbul Grill and Napa Valley Blend, have been a hit with our customers and she’s always working on something new.

Ronit’s latest creation, introduced earlier this month at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, is Sriracha Hot Chili Seasoning, inspired by the wildly popular hot sauce.

Sriracha itself is not a pepper — it’s the name of a town on the coast of Thailand — so Ronit experimented with different chili peppers to approximate the flavor of the spicy-sweet red jalapeño sauce that’s sold in a chicken-emblazoned bottle.

“It took me about a month, with a lot of red chilies and a lot of Sriracha sauce,” she says. “I ended up combining different kinds of chilies to get the smoky flavor of the sauce.”

To balance the heat and acidity, Sriracha Hot Chili Seasoning also contains garlic, sugar, salt and vinegar powder — but none of the additives (potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite and xanthan gum) found in the bottled version.

At the Fancy Food Show, chefs and buyers were impressed with how much Ronit’s new blend tastes like the famous Sriracha sauce. And bartenders loved it: Watch for Sriracha-rimmed margarita glasses and Sriracha-spiked bloody marys in 2015.

You can use Sriracha Hot, Istanbul Grill, Ras el Hanout or just about any other of our many spice blends to flavor this easy chicken dish, adapted from a reader-submitted recipe published by Gourmet magazine in the 1980s as “Chicken Breasts Bilyecki.” For the rice side dish, try Persian Apricot Rice Seasoning or another one of Ronit’s special rice blends.

Get the recipe: Chicken with Any Spice Blend