Taste-Test: Sriracha Kettle chips
Except for lollipops, Sriracha makes just about everything better. If it has one weakness, it might be that, like Commander Krang, it can't take over the world without a proper vessel. And while pho or eggs are a much more palatable transport than an oddly-shaped android body, Sriracha has mostly served as a complementary flavor not often enjoyed on its own.
But that's all changing thanks to the tireless work of the flavor architects over at Kettle, who have spent countless potentially-damaging hours huffing rooster fumes in order to pinpoint the exact flavor characteristics of the best hot sauce on earth.
But just how precise were their calculations? And can these chips truly stave off the Srirachapocalypse as advertised? Only a taste-test will tell.
After tearing off the corner of the bag, I gave the chips a big whiff. Not a good idea. Since I didn't carefully waft the scent into my nostrils like they taught in science class and whiskey tastings, the spice made me cough like the frail asthmatic that I am. My seventh grade chemistry teacher and lung capacity are clearly to blame.
Flavor-wise, my expectations for these chips were pretty high because I am a big fan of the Spicy Thai Kettle chips. And by "big fan" I mean I regularly consume an entire bag in one sitting.
My first bite of the Sriracha chips had that magic, first-chip-out-of-the-bag satisfaction that flavor scientists must have a proper term for, but since I don't know it, I'll call it "virginity". And taking this bag of chips' virginity was pretty awesome.
But was this the beginning of a long-term relationship? All the flavors are there. Garlic, red chilies, sugar, vinegar, and more garlic. But something wasn't quite right.
The first point of distinction I noticed between this and actual Sriracha is a much stronger garlic flavor. And although garlic is great, it generally doesn't result in second dates.
On inspection of the packaging, Kettle lists paprika and red bell pepper powder as primary ingredients. Now I've got nothing against the Pappy K (does anyone but me call it this?) or the red bell pepper, but Huy Fong was built on the jalapeño. You can really taste the difference between these two peppers when you taste the sauce and chip side-by-side.
Lastly, there's the spice factor. While the scent of the chips was enough to make me cough, the taste didn't exactly make me run for a glass of water. I walked slowly after a few handfuls, but as David Tran says, a hot sauce must be hot!
The folks at Kettle have made a valiant effort at taking Sriracha out of the realm of condiments and into the sphere of snack foods. This has resulted in a sincerely delicious chip. But not even all the technology in the Technodrome could emulate the raw beauty that is Huy Fong Sriracha sauce.
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food/drink team who has taste-tested everything from the Big Mac to the Big King. He also enjoys hating mustard. Follow him to pots of gold/Twitter at @Dannosphere.