There’s no doubt that Sriracha is the hottest trend in hot sauce nowadays. There is simply something incendiary about this style of spicy condiment that has garnered a ravenous following among foodies, chileheads and hipsters alike.
Sriracha, as a general type of sauce, is named after where is is believed to have originated in the coastal city of Si Racha, in the Chonburi Province of eastern Thailand. It is a thick, sweet, garlicky-pungent chile sauce that typically has a base of fermented red chile peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. Although sales-wise it’s still not as popular as the more traditional, runny, Louisiana-style pepper sauces (typified by heavyweights McIlhenny Co.’s TABASCO Pepper Sauce, Frank’s RedHot Sauce, Texas Pete, Bruce Foods Corporation’s Louisiana Brand Sauce, and Baumer Foods’ Crystal Hot Sauce), Sriracha is rapidly picking up steam, and is in an estimated 9% of all U.S. households.
By far the most popular producer of Sriracha sauces is Huy Fong Foods, Inc., based in Irwindale, California, in a state-of-the-art 650,000 square-foot facility, which owner David Tran completely designed himself. And although there are numerous direct competitors, including scores of small, craft hot sauce makers all vying for their slice of the Sriracha pie, it is Tran’s “Rooster Sauce” (its informal nickname because of a picture of a rooster on each clear plastic bottle) gets almost all the attention and adoration in the fiery foods world.
Tran, an immigrant from communist Vietnam, started making his Huy Fong sauces in 1980 along Spring Street in Los Angeles’ Chinatown district. After a move to a 68,000-square-foot factory in Rosemead, California in 1987, sales for his signature product started to take off, growing steadily throughout the 1990s and ’00s. By 2010, Huy Fong Foods opened their Irwindale factory, and their Sriracha Sauce (which Tran pronounces “see-RAH-cha”) became a household name, all with zero advertising; quite a triumphant “word of mouth” American success story.
In honor of Huy Fong Foods launching the brand new redesign of their website (just within a day of this writing), David Tran was kind enough to let me ask him some questions…