A Tale of Two Sauces

When I come to Vienna, there are two things I always bring with me: a pound of brown sugar, and a bottle of sriracha sauce. The brown sugar is because they have none here, and if you try to bake without it you wind up with some pretty strange results. It is possible to make your own, of course, by mixing white sugar and molasses. But they don’t have molasses here, either. To get molasses you need to go to an international grocery, and by the time you’ve made that effort, you don’t feel like baking anymore. So I pack a pound of sugar in my suitcase and figure that’s a free pound I have for gifts on the return trip to the US.

The sriracha is a somewhat more complicated matter. They actually do have sriracha here, lots of it, in all the Asian grocery stores and some non-Asian ones as well. Go out for fast food noodles and they’re likely to have a bottle of it on the counter. It is, however, subtly different from the familiar kind you get in America. Here, take a look:

Do not be fooled. Just because they are both winged birds with short tempers does NOT mean that they taste the same.
Do not be fooled. Just because they are both large birds with short tempers does NOT mean that they taste the same.

The bottle on the left is American sriracha, hand-imported from California by me. The bottle on the right is Viennese sriracha, of the sort you get everywhere here. The American has a rooster; the Viennese has a goose. The American is more orange in color; the Viennese a rustier red. The Viennese is a little thicker and less squirtable (squirtability being essential for those of us who spritz the stuff all over our pizza). And the American also tastes roughly 100,000x better than the Viennese.

I’m not sure what it is. There’s kind of raw spice flavor to the goose sauce that I don’t care for; it tastes like a slightly different pepper variety; it’s also not got that perfect sriracha balance of sweet with hot; and it doesn’t have as much vinegary goodness. Whatever the mix that’s used for the rooster sauce, it accepts no imitators. But unfortunately, the rooster is seriously hard to find here.

My solution to this has been to bring a gigantic bottle with me every time I come from the US. (Note the scale of the rooster bottle in comparison to the already large-size goose bottle.) I’ve also conducted a search of most of the Asian stores in Vienna, in the Naschmarkt and wherever else I encounter one (there’s one in the second district, for instance, that I’ve searched several times). I finally came across one, lone, jumbo-sized rooster bottle nested amidst a sea of geese at this store, on the Rechte Wienzeile by the Naschmarkt:

I tracked down a bottle of rooster sauce in this store, on the Rechte Wienzeile by the Naschmarkt. It was the last bottle they had in stock. I bought it even though I still have some at home. I am that worried about getting my hands on this stuff here.
I tracked down a bottle of rooster sauce in this store, on the Rechte Wienzeile by the Naschmarkt. It was the last bottle they had in stock. I bought it even though I still have some at home. I am that worried about getting my hands on this stuff here.

If you’re visiting Vienna, remember, it’s BYOS(auce). And, rooster, not goose.

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7 Responses to A Tale of Two Sauces

  1. viennamamma says:

    Excellent blog! I’ve just stumbled across it and find it very interesting, especially since so much of it focuses on places in the second district where I live. However, I must add that they do have brown sugar in Vienna. I swear you can even find it in most supermarkets. Yes, I know it is courser and a little heavier than the sugar one finds in the states, but it works and I’ve always had excellent results with it. Just thought you might want to know especially since I spent five years complaining about the difficulties of finding condensed milk for my pumpkin pies only to realize that the kaffeemilch they sell everywhere is basically the same thing. Anyway, I look forward to reading your future posts!

    • Lisa says:

      Hi there! Thanks for stopping by, and for the helpful info! You’re totally right that there is a version of brown sugar here, and I did try baking with it, but it was a bit of a disaster. Reading your comment, though, I realize that my big mistake may have been the recipe I tried — it’s a blond brownie recipe that involves melting a ton of butter and dissolving the brown sugar in it, and it may be that that was just not a good process for the Austrian sugar (which, as you say, isn’t “packing” sugar like in the US). So what I wound up with was brownies where all the butter basically fell out the bottom — they were flat, and swimming in a puddle of butter. But I imagine you’re right, that other kinds of recipes would respond better. Encouraged by your experiments, I’ll try again with a different sort of recipe and see how I do! It sounds like you’re having good look with pies. :)

      Also, isn’t the 2nd just a great district? We’re out by Mexikoplatz, and it’s so nice — the river, the Prater, it’s all right here. Love it.

      Thanks again for your comment!!
      Lisa

  2. Hi there! I’m also an expat in Vienna. A reader brought your blog to my attention; It’s very good to read!
    -The Vienna Girl

    • Lisa says:

      Thank you for this lovely comment, and also for reading! How long have you been in Vienna? Feel free to drop me a line (lisa@mybluedanube.com) if you’d like to share Vienna notes. I love it here, but it’s hard to make connections. I’d be interested to hear how you find living here.

  3. Judi says:

    Great blog! The best part is the part about having extra space in your luggage for Gifts to bring to the U.S.

  4. Luvbeers says:

    It’s the same with soda here and in the US… the Huy Fong foods version uses loads of good ole American cancer causing refined sugar while the Thai version probably uses natural sugar just like how EU coke and ketchup tastes different. It is all in the sugar baby.

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