Sriracha (see-rah-jah)

What it means

Now that Lay's makes sriracha-flavored potato chips and Subway's serving sriracha melts, it's probably a stretch to classify the Asian condiment as anything close to esoteric. But since the most common U.S. brand - Huy Fong, also known as rooster sauce - is a mere 34 years old, it's conceivable there are still American eaters who haven't yet experienced the baptismal lip burn.

Sriracha originated in Thailand, where the city of Si Racha lent its name to the fiercely red sauce of chili pepper paste, garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar (one of the frequent complaints about Huy Fong's rendition is "too sweet.") Although it's used in Thailand as a dipping sauce, it's added to noodle soups in Vietnam, which is where Huy Fong founder David Tran immigrated from.

"I knew, after the Vietnamese resettled here, that they would want their hot sauce for their pho," Tran told John T. Edge, who chronicled the sauce's short history for The New York Times. Tran tried to reach a multitude of eaters by listing the ingredients in Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, English and French, but that's where he stopped: He's never advertised.

Even without marketing, though, Huy Fong now sells 20 million bottles a year to eaters who swear by sriracha on their pizza, eggs, macaroni-and-cheese and burgers. A recent ruling limiting production at the company's Los Angeles plant spawned the social media hashtag "srirachapocolypse." As a comic from The Oatmeal (which has been "liked" 311,000 times on Facebook) concludes, "Sriracha, you are a delicious blessing flavored with the incandescent glow of a thousand dying suns."

Where we saw it

Diggity Doughnuts, (Nutty Rooster peanut butter and sriracha doughnut, $2.50)

Where else you can try it

Countless breakfast joints, pizza parlors and sandwich shops stock sriracha, but local dishes featuring the sauce include the sriracha croissant at Brown's Court Bakery and srirarcha waffles at The Meeting Room. CO makes its own sriracha.

Where to buy it

Everywhere. But for the widest selection of Sriracha sauces, head for H&L Asian Supermarket, 5300 Rivers Ave.