Appetite for Thailand's Sriracha sauce - on almost everything - hots up in US

The advertisement for McDonald's spicy new Sriracha Big Mac has hit its Columbus, Ohio restaurants.
The advertisement for McDonald's spicy new Sriracha Big Mac has hit its Columbus, Ohio restaurants. PHOTO: MCDONALD'S

Anyone who doubts that the American appetite is getting spicier need only visit a McDonald's restaurants in a middle American city just 228 kilometres south of here and order what might once have been considered a sacrilege. Its iconic Big Mac now has a decidedly Thai twist to it - two all beef patties, Sriracha sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

In fact, in addition to the Sriracha Big Mac now being tested at all 126 restaurants in Columbus, Ohio's capital city, customers can order their new Sriracha Mac sauce on any item on the massive American chain's menu, or as the dip for its Chicken McNuggets and fries.

It marks the first time ever that McDonald's has tampered with the Big Mac.

In announcing the test, McDonald's Chef Mike Haracz was quoted by BurgerBusiness.com, according to The Huffington Post as saying: "We're always trying new creations and we wanted to innovate with an on-trend flavour like Sriracha to give our customers in Columbus a new and exciting taste."

The burger website reported that it is the first time McDonald's has tried Sriracha Mac Sauce, after Americans first started sampling the charms of the Thai hot sauce in earnest in June, 2016. If all tests well, its expected to roll out the new spicier Big Mac nationwide in 2017.

The Sriracha Big Mac sauce also is available in another test at about 600 California restaurants - through its new customised "Signature Crafted Recipes", the Chicago Tribune reported.

The trend comes as a sudden surprise. The Insider website reports that tastes in the US have been getting spicier since 2000. The market for Sriracha in particular and spicy sauces in general has grown 165 per cent since then.

But a Google search by Insider showed that the big shift occurred in 2014 when Sriracha replaced that All-American favourite, Ketchup, as the sauce of choice, winning 40 of the 50 states - from Maine through Ohio and Pennsylvania to California. It tied in four of the other ten, with Ketchup winning out only in West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Oregon.

Other fast-food chains have been quick to feed the growing addiction. KFC is experimenting with a "fiery Sriracha" version of its own icon, "finger-lickin' good" fried chicken, while Wendy's burger outlets are offering a sriracha chicken sandwich and Subway has a Sriracha melt on the menu.

Some of the sauce's biggest fans are millennials, according to Time. The magazine found that 62 per cent of those born this century describe themselves as "adventurous eaters" and 75 per cent demand "more flavours" at their eateries.

Most importantly, the Wall Street Journal reported in October that only 1 in 5 millennials, now the largest generation in the US, have tried the traditional Big Mac.