Fortified with water and saltines, Washington Post Food section staff members rated sauces for flavor and level of heat, using a rating scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the best).
Here's how they ranked, in order of preference:
Huy Fong Sriracha Chili Sauce (17 ounces, $4.69). Average score: 3.8. Comments: "tangy, hints of garlic"; "pleasant!"; "very strong aroma, off-putting"; "fruity"; "bland, comparatively."
Sriraja Panich Chilli Sauce (8.8 ounces, $1.79). 3.4. "Mild at first, pleasant aftertaste"; "classic tasting"; "spicy but not painful"; "a tad musty, but sourness is good, too"; "little sweet, fruity."
KimKim Korean Hot Sauce (16 ounces, $6.99). 3.2. "Heavy sesame-oil taste"; "more spicy complexity than heat"; "touch of sweet smoke, tastes handmade"; "a little tangy, sort of Asian-soy flavor."
Kikkoman Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (10.6 ounces, $2.99). 2.8. "Too hot for me; I taste nothing"; "fermented flavors, a little funk. Complex"; "not much aroma!"; "icky — barbecue-ish."
Kim Tu Thap Sriracha Chili Sauce (28 ounces, $2.99) 2.2. "Pretty darn hot"; "very ugly color, neon orange, unnatural"; "like it's gone off"; "strong, not entirely positive smell."
Thai Taste Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (15.23 ounces, $3.49): 1.4. "Cardboardy, thin, bad syrupy consistency"; "meh"; "kinda fishy"; "a little vegetal."
The common ingredient in these three recipes is KimKim Korean Hot Sauce, available at some Harris Teeter stores and Whole Foods Markets or online at Surfas Culinary district (www.culinarydistrict.com) The rice cakes and wings recipes are adapted from Steven Kim, co-creator of the sauce.
KimKim Spicy Rice Cakes (Dukbokki)
This is a version of one of the most popular street foods in Korea. The traditional dish dates back to royal dynasty courts and was more savory, with meats and vegetables.
The cakes are chewy, addictive and fun to eat as late-night snacks.
Serve with cold beer.
Dried anchovy, rice cakes and fish cakes can be found at most Asian grocery stores. The fish cakes are shaped into thin sheets rather than patties and might have to be unrolled.
4 cups water, or more as needed
15 dried anchovies (see headnote)
1 pound cylinder-shaped Korean rice cakes (also called rice sticks; see headnote)
8 ounces frozen, fried fish cake, such as Assi brand (see headnote)
2 spring onions, trimmed and cut crosswise into thin slices (may substitute scallions)
1/2 cup KimKim Korean Hot Sauce
Roasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Bring the water to a boil in a deep pot over medium-high heat. Add the dried anchovies; once the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, separate the rice cakes. Cut the fish cake into strips no wider than the rice cakes.
Discard the anchovies; add the rice cakes, fish cake strips and half of the spring onions to the anchovy-flavored water, along with the KimKim Korean Hot Sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice cakes are soft and the fish cakes have plumped a bit. Add water as needed to keep the cakes submerged.
Use a Chinese skimmer or slotted spoon to transfer equal portions of the rice cake-fish cake mixture to individual wide, shallow bowls; divide the broth among them evenly.
Top with the remaining spring onion and the sesame seeds. Serve hot.
Makes 4 servings.
This crunchy, sweet and spicy slaw is a suitable side dish for burgers, grilled fish and chicken. The optional carrots add sweetness and color.
Adapted from North Carolina freelance writer Ken Otterbourg.
3-4 cups shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots (optional)
Juice from half a lime
1 tablespoon KimKim Korean Hot Sauce, or more to taste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Place the cabbage and carrots, if using, in a mixing bowl.
Whisk together the lime juice, KimKim Korean Hot Sauce, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar in a liquid measuring cup. Pour over the cabbage (and carrots) and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving; taste, and add KimKim Hot Sauce as needed just before serving.
It can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 or 3 days.
Nutrition Per serving: 60 calories, 1 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar
Makes 4 servings (3 to 4 cups)
KimKim Twice-Fried Wings
These twice-fried wings are crispy, salty, juicy, nutty and a little spicy. In Korea, it's traditional to eat fried chicken with cubes of pickled daikon radish.
The wings go great with any beer, but a nice American pale ale or IPA nicely counterbalances the heat.
You'll need an instant-read thermometer to monitor the oil temperature.
8 cups canola oil, for frying
4 pounds chicken drumettes and flat wings (40 to 45 pieces)
4 tablespoons (half stick) salted butter
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 cup KimKim Korean Hot Sauce
Line a baking sheet or two with several layers of paper towels. Seat a wire cooling rack on top.
Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat to maintain an oil temperature of 225 to 250 degrees.
Add about a third of the chicken wings (15 pieces at most); fry for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the wings as needed to promote even browning and cooking. Use a Chinese spider or wide slotted spoon to transfer to the rack. Cook the remaining wings in 2 more batches.
Let the chicken rest for at least 1 hour and no more than 2 hours. Keep the oil in the pot; you'll be frying the wings again.
When ready to serve, combine the butter, sesame oil and KimKim Hot Sauce in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until the mixture is well combined. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Remove any stray bits from the oil in the pot. Heat over high heat to 400 degrees.
Carefully add a third of the chicken wings; fry for 5 to 7 minutes, constantly and carefully moving the wing in the oil and maintaining a temperature of about 375 degrees. The wings will be golden brown and crisped; use a skimmer or a wide slotted spoon to immediately transfer the wings to the bowl with sauce, and toss to coat.
Repeat with the remaining two batches of wings.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition Per serving: 470 calories, 27 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 33 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 90 mg cholesterol, 740 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar
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