‘Tis the (Chili Grinding) Season

What do you do when you can’t find just the right sauce to complement your dish? You make it. That’s exactly how Huy Fong’s Sriracha was born. Fun fact: the lesser known, but eponymous Sriracha is actually a Thai sauce, sweeter than Huy Fong’s and originating from the town of Sri Racha in Thailand.

Last month, I toured the Huy Fong factory in Southern California during the last day of the chili grinding season. Huy Fong Foods actually makes three sauces in their shiny new, state-of-the-art factory: the famous Sriracha sauce: Sambal Olek, a more pasty chili vinegar sauce; and their chili garlic sauce. Conveniently, they’re all made from the same few ingredients, so harvesting and grinding the chili each season covers all three products.

Photo Oct 17, 2 16 32 PM
One of the last truckloads of chili coming in from Underwood Ranches.

Apart from owner David Tran’s humbleness, the other thing I admire most is his use of local ingredients to make this Asian staple truly American. The chilis are trucked in from Underwood Ranches, which has locations in Southern and Central California, and the garlic is from Gilroy, California, the self-proclaimed garlic capital.

Photo Oct 17, 2 19 57 PM
Chili avalanche. What photos don’t capture: folks sneezing and coughing.
Photo Oct 17, 2 19 51 PM
Chilis getting cleaned and selected after they avalanche in from the truck.

The tour of the factory itself can actually be booked year round. What’s special was watching the trucks of chili roll in and get selected, crushed and packaged into the blue bins. Another surprising fact I discovered on this tour was even the Sriracha bottles were made in this factory, so the labels can be screen printed right onto the bottle. Having been inside much smaller foods factories, it was amazing to me how automated everything was here, from the chili selection, to the bottle making and packing of the bottles.

Sriracha bottles, marching to the boxing station.
Sriracha bottles, marching to the boxing station.

The tour ended with a sampling of various items made with the famous sauce. While Tran knows his famous sauce has peak popularity, he doesn’t hold back those who get creative with it. In fact, Huy Fong embraces it in their Rooster Room, with  souvenirs and snack creations ready for purchase.

Sriracha ice cream, handed out from an ice cream truck on the grounds of the factory.
Sriracha ice cream, handed out from an ice cream truck on the grounds of the factory.

Huy Fong Foods

4800 Azusa Canyon Road in Irwindale, CA

Watch the documentary to learn more about this epic sauce!

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