Go Behind the Scenes with Huy Fong Foods and Sriracha

Sriracha bottles | Photo courtesy of Huy Fong Foods, Facebook

Huy Fong Foods founder, David Tran didn’t invent Sriracha, but the legendary hot sauce, first made in the coastal town of Si Racha, has become synonymous with his L.A. based brand. The Vietnam native launched Huy Fong Foods in Chinatown in 1980, naming the company for a Taiwanese ship that delivered him from war-torn Vietnam to Hong Kong, a key stop on the route to his family’s reunion in Boston, and ultimately to Los Angeles.

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Huy Fong Foods founder, David Tran | Photo by Shannon Cottrell

Initially, Tran and his family were making their hot sauce by the bucket, developed the Sriracha recipe we now know in 1983, and eventually earned enough money to upgrade equipment and relocate to Rosemead in 1987. A constant rise in demand fueled expansion and let them to transition to a 650,000 square foot facility in Irwindale in 2013.

Now the proprietary blend of red jalapeños, sugar, salt, garlic, and distilled vinegar with the signature rooster logo and green cap has become a symbol of civic pride. Fans rallied behind Huy Fong Foods in 2013, when the City of Irwindale put the squeeze on the company for an alleged irritation to residents during chili grinding season.

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Lion dancer and new friends at Huy Fong Foods | Photo by Shannon Cottrell

These hazy accusations resulted in an era of increased transparency for Huy Fong Foods, a family-run company that was previously press-shy and now hosts public tours on select weekdays. Huy Fong Foods also hosts open house events on Saturdays for a few weeks during the annual chili grinding season. Spaces are limited, a testament to Sriracha’s popularity. The open house events include free snacks, a t-shirt, 9-ounce Sriracha bottle, and lion dance performances.

Whether you score a coveted tour slot or not, here's what you can expect to see at Huy Fong Foods during chili grinding season.

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Chilies from Underwood Family Farms arrive at Huy Fong Foods | Photo by Joshua Lurie

During the four-month chili grinding season, a convoy of 30-40 trucks arrives daily from SoCal-based Underwood Family Farms and deposits tons of ripe fire red jalapenos into hoppers out back.

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Chili grinders at Huy Fong Foods | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Conveyor belts usher the peppers inside the facility for sorting, washing, and grinding.

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Base sauce stored in 55-gallon drums at Huy Fong Foods | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Ground chilies, salt and vinegar help form the base sauce that fills blue 55-gallon drums that must last until next year’s grinding season. The base also contributes to the company’s two lesser-known sauces: Chili Garlic and Sambal Oelek.

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Sriracha bottling line at Huy Fong Foods | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Once called for, the sauce is blended with remaining ingredients and bottled. Even the actual bottles are impressive, with tiny plastic vials piped with hot air and inflated to full size before your eyes. Nine lines have the capacity to fill up to 18,000 bottles of varying sizes per hour. All Sriracha bottles are silkscreened with the iconic rooster logo.

Production concludes with capping, coding, “best before” dating, packaging, and the robot-assisted placement of packages on pallets for shrink-wrapping. From there, Sriracha is destined for store shelves, your refrigerator, and breakfast, lunch or dinner plates.

4800 Azusa Canyon Rd., Irwindale, 626.286.8328, www.huyfong.com