Sriracha is easily the coolest condiment on the table. The spicy, tangy sauce goes on everything, it never goes bad and it’s even part of the food pyramid:
If you want to take your Sriracha obsession to the next level, head to Irwindale, California. You can take a free tour of the Huy Fong Foods facility and get a spicy look at how your favorite hot sauce is made.
Today Sriracha has joined the likes of Frank’s and Tabasco as a go-to hot sauce option for many people, but the story of Sriracha cannot be told without the story of Mr. David Tran.
Tran began his chili sauce ways in 1975 in Vietnam, filling recycled baby food jars with his sauce called Pepper Sa-te and delivering it via bicycle, according to the company website.
He eventually fled communist Vietnam on a freighter named Huey Fong (which became inspiration for his company name). Once he got to the United States, Tran started doing what he does best: makin’ hot sauce baby.
Since then, Huy Fong Foods has grown from selling sauce out of a van in LA’s Chinatown to the current 650,000-square-foot factory in Irwindale.
But it hasn’t alway been smooth sailing for Tran’s company.
In 2014, Irwindale residents wanted to shut down the Huy Fong Foods facility because of the strong fumes during chili-grinding season. The city filed a lawsuit and even declared it a public nuisance after complaints of headaches, nosebleeds, heartburn and other respiratory ailments from locals.
The place partially shutdown (causing panic among fans about a Sriracha shortage) and re-ventilated. Tran opened the doors to the public.
“The tours are the only way to prove that we don’t make tear gas,” Tran previously told the Atlantic.
The city eventually dropped the lawsuit and nuisance issue, and the sauciness continues.
During the 30-minute tour, everyone piles into an extended-cab golf cart and you get to see the entire process.
If you go during chili grinding season (the first few months of fall), you’ll see and smell the red peppers being delivered by the truckload. The machines inside grind them up and process them into a sauce.
While Sriracha is definitely the company’s break-out star, Huy Fong Foods also makes sambal oelek and chili garlic sauces.
During the tour, you see the infinite amounts of blue barrels filled with ground red hot chili peppers. You can also see the plastic bottles being molded, filled, capped and boxed in-house.
The best part is arguably at the end. There’s a souvenir shop called The Rooster Room, where you can buy T-shirts, flavored snacks and even those mini Sriracha to-go keychains.
In my opinion, the best thing about Sriracha isn’t even the taste. The success of Sriracha and other Huy Fong Foods sauces is completely based on word of mouth. The company doesn’t even employ a single salesperson.
Oh, and the rooster logo comes from the fact that Tran was born in the Year of the Rooster, which also happens to be in 2017.
You can bet that Huy Fong Foods is planning a rager.
Tours are given weekly, and you have to book in advance. It’s located at 4800 Azusa Canyon Road in Irwindale, California.