Photos: A Tour Through The World-Famous Sriracha Factory
Huy Fong Foods has been in business since 1980, but up until this year they hadn't let any outsiders into the factory that produces Sriracha for fear of releasing any trade secrets. That changed when the city of Irwindale complained that the plant was a public nuisance to the city; they said local residents had complained about the factory's spicy odors. The company opened its doors to the public earlier this year to prove they were good neighbors.
"We had no choice but to open [the factory to the public] and let everyone come to see—to prove—that we make hot sauce" and not "tear gas," Huy Fong Foods CEO David Tran tells LAist.
Thankfully, all that nonsense—and the panicky Sriracha-hording—is over. The city dropped its complaints and allowed Huy Fong Foods to stay in town. LAist visited the Sriracha factory last week donning the red hairnets that were supplied by the company, in the midst of chili pepper grinding season, which kicked off in late August and is expected to continue through to October 25. Every Saturday, Huy Fong Foods is hosting tours to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with up to 300 people coming in every hour.
When we got there, we saw Sriracha fans already sporting t-shirts with the Rooster sauce label. Even some teenage girls who were wearing the shirts giggled and waved to Tran, who was walking around the premises taking photos with people, like he was a celebrity (and he pretty much is). There were cardboard cut-outs of Tran in different outfits—from a dapper tuxedo to Sriracha gear—placed around the factory for those special Instagram selfies.
We got to see the process from start to finish—from the chili peppers getting washed and sorted to them getting ground up and put into barrels. Employees stood at different areas in the factory ready to explain the chili-making process to guests who were on a self-guided walking tour. The factory was clean and the odor was faint; what we did smell was delicious and made us hungry. At one point, a worker there handed us a tissue paper to cover our noses and mouths because of the chili dust. It wasn't all that bad, although we did hear a few people on the tour cough because of the spiciness.
Tran says that they grind 110 pounds of peppers every hour at the 650,000 square-foot factory. They also have 50 trucks that each carry 20 tons of the red jalapeno peppers from Underwood Ranches in Ventura County over to Irwindale. Huy Fong Foods is an investor in the farm's 200 acres of peppers. He says that even with all that, they never have enough chili peppers—they never have in the last 34 years.
Huy Fong Foods also makes their own Sriracha bottles inside the processing plant:
Something that makes the tour such a fun event is that you get some swag along the way, like a pepper to take home, Sriracha t-shirts, Sriracha bottles, and samples of their hot sauce-flavored popcorn and caramel squares. They even had an ice cream truck outside offering complimentary Sriracha vanilla and chocolate swirl soft serve, which was equally parts tasty and spicy as hell. There's a gift shop called The Rooster Room where you can get Sriracha apparel, including cock sauce jokes on boxers for men.
Tran said that when he was living in Vietnam, his family would never buy hot sauce. Every morning, his mom would buy vegetables at a local market and she would get chili peppers from the vendor for free. They would make their own chili sauce at home. Eventually, Tran would grow his own peppers in a farm in Vietnam and make his sauce. When he immigrated over to the U.S., he opened his first space to make the hot sauce in a 2,500 square-foot room in Chinatown. There, he would spoon his mixture in jars before delivering them to markets.
He's definitely come a long way since.
You can tour the Sriracha factory at Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale by signing up online at here or by calling (626) 286-8328.