I became a hot sauce convert about a decade ago, after a childhood of avoiding most chile-laced food. After moving to Beijing at age twenty-five, then traveling around Asia and sampling several regional spicy sauces, I was hooked. I came back to New York and immediately started experimenting with making my own.
I also began developing recipes that showcased these incredible (and incredibly diverse) sauces, beginning the journey of what would become my new cookbook, Red Hot Kitchen: Classic Asian Chili Sauces from Scratch and Delicious Dishes to Make With Them.
While testing, I discovered my addiction to hot sauce isn’t limited to savory dishes. I also began to create spicy desserts of every stripe. I would sprinkle cayenne on ice creams or sorbets, make peanut brittle with ground chipotles, or mix together Indonesian-style fruit salads with a spicy, tangy dressing. I would even drizzle hot honey on Rice Krispies treats.
And then there were the chocolate desserts. If you have ever had molé poblano or Mexican hot chocolate, you may already know that chocolate and chile is a winning flavor combination.
One year, I needed a last-minute dessert to bring to a family holiday party. I knew I wanted to make brownies, which are always a crowd favorite, but I wanted to do something a little different than my classic brownies recipe. I wanted something that would really pop, so I decided to try adding flavorful Sriracha and flaky sea salt to my usual mixture.
I made a batch with a conservative 1 ½ tablespoons of Sriracha, guessing that some of the party's attendees may not touch anything spicy. But I also made second batch with a full 3 tablespoons, to really amp up the flavor. I brought them both to the party, and, as it turned out, both versions were a hit—and the same people I was worried wouldn’t like the spicier batch actually gobbled up seconds and thirds.
After making the brownies many times for other parties, I decided that the 3-tablespoon version was the clear winner. To me, the dessert isn't overwhelmingly spicy by any means, but has just enough kick to make you notice. Of course, the Sriracha is easily adjustable in the recipe, and you can always use less.
In the many times I've made these since then, I’ve also tweaked the texture along the way. Personally, I prefer cakier brownies with defined, slightly crinkly edges, but I know a huge percentage of brownie lovers goes wild for the fudgier stuff. In these brownies, the texture is a bit of both, with both chewy edges and a slightly fudgy center. If you’d prefer your brownies fudgier, underbake them by a couple of minutes.
There isn’t really a limit to what you can do with Sriracha, and with sea salt as a finishing touch, these brownies’ sweet-salty-spicy flavor combination will give your taste buds a wake-up call.