Sushi and Sriracha have a long history together, dating back to the early 80’s when that delicious Huy Fong rooster sauce first hit the shelves. The sushi wave was just starting to rise, and the couple couldn’t have met at a better time. While the invention of the California roll is first credited back to the late ’70’s, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that American style sushi really gained ground. Today it is almost a foregone conclusion that any moderately sized city in the U.S, even in the Midwest, thousands of miles from the ocean, will have at least 1 sushi restaurant. There are thousands of sushi restaurants across the country, and you’d be hard pressed to find a few that don’t use Sriracha.
While adding at least a touch of Sriracha can really never do wrong, there are a few things in the sushi that are better left alone. You can bet there is a fair amount of Sriracha in the spicy tuna recipe at your favorite sushi spot, as well as the spicy mayo sauce. In addition to this, there are plenty of sushi dishes that could use a little Sriracha touch after they’ve left the chef’s hands.
Check out our Sriracha + Sushi dos and don'ts below.
Many American-style sushi menus offer battered and deep fried sushi rolls, often finished with a sweet soy sauce or mayo based sauce. The contrasting textures and temperatures lend themselves perfectly to the Sriracha embrace, creating a sweet and spicy combo that’s hard to beat.
Most places give it complimentary, and there’s nothing better than warm, spicy miso soup with a bit of extra spice on a cold day.
Served nigiri (over a ball of rice) or sashimi (just the fish) style, the fattiness of salmon pairs nicely with a dot of Sriracha. Ask the chef for green onions and a slice of lemon to bring it all together.
Many restaurants offer lightly seared tuna with ponzu sauce, sesame seeds, and masago (smelt roe). The citrus-soy flavor of the ponzu melds perfectly with the right amount of Sriracha, along with a little finely grated daikon radish.
Unagi (or BBQ Freshwater Eel) is a staple on any sushi menu, usually eaten towards the end of the meal. Perfectly toasted and served warm, a dash of Sriracha adds the perfect spice each sweet and savory bite.
While the average sushi eater may find Uni less than palatable, Uni is a highly sought after delicacy among sushi connoisseurs. Uni tastes best as is, maybe with a dash of salt and squeeze of lemon, but don’t mess with its’ subtle flavors by adding any spice.
Some establishments will bring in specialty fish from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, or other locally caught, high dollar items. While you are free to spice as you like, it might be better to enjoy these dishes as the chef prepares them.
While this might be grouped in with fine fish, Toro, or fatty tuna belly, is in a class of its’ own. Restaurants will pay upwards of $40 per pound for Toro, and usually charge by the piece. We don't say this often, but Sriracha might be overkill for something this delicate, so hold the sauce.
“Omakase” means “in the Chef’s hands” and is freestyle sushi, a culinary journey guided by your sushi chef. This option is typically found at higher end sushi spots with experienced chefs. Adding Sriracha to your dish after the chef has given it to you would be considered rude and disrespectful. If you ever go the Omakase route, you should let your sushi chef guide you.
Tamago is a Japanese omelet, slightly sweet or savory, depending on the chef. Each chef has his or her own unique recipe, and usually serve it up nigiri style over rice. In this case, adding spice will throw off the subtle flavors meant to complement the egg, so we recommend holding off on any added spiciness.
As we all know, Sriracha goes well on almost anything. Carrying your Sriracha2Go or Sriracha packets with you at all times is a necessity, but there are those very few occasions you should keep them in your pocket.
When it comes to sushi, there’s a time to sauce, and not to sauce.