Many say sriracha is the hottest food commodity on the market, but it might just be getting a little too hot. Sriracha—everyone's favorite spicy condiment—has become embroiled in a legal battle for the past few months.
Sriracha maker Huy Fong Foods, Inc. has their factory based in Irwindale, California. Residents there complain that the strong scent of chiles burn their eyes and send them into coughing fits. Today, the Irwindale city council will vote to decide whether the factory causes a public disturbance.
The product is so popular that the factory pumps out 3,000 bottles an hour 24 hours a day, six days a week—that's roughly 200 tons per week. Huy Fong Foods sells about 20 million bottles per year, and since every bottle of sriracha comes from this factory, the city council's decision could mean the difference between a mediocre dinner or a great one for countless Americans.
Dan Pashman, host of the Sporkful podcast and author of the forthcoming book "Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious," shares some tips on how to survive without sriracha.
"The sauce that all of us think of as sriracha sauce is really just one brand's version of sriracha sauce," says Pashman. "Sriracha is not a brand name—it is a type of sauce like ketchup or mustard. If they shutdown the Heinz Ketchup factory, you may miss Heinz Ketchup but you'd be able to get other kinds of ketchup made by other brands."
Pashman says that Huy Fong Foods, Inc. was launched in the U.S. in the 1980s by a Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant named David Tran, now the CEO of the company and the man that's been fighting it out with the Irwindale city council. Though Tran's sriracha recipe is buzzing in the food community, Pashman says there are other options out there for spice lovers.
"There are several other brands of sriracha out there," he says. "I know Texas Pete's makes one, and Trader Joe's has one. But in the case of Trader Joe's it's always tough to tell because many of their foods are just other people's packaged foods that they put their own label on. They're very secretive about what brand it actually is that they're putting their label on, so if the factory gets shut down and Trader Joe's suddenly runs out of sriracha, we'll know where they've been getting their sriracha from."
Even though there are alternatives, Pashman says Huy Fong Foods sriracha is his number one go-to hot sauce. He's not alone—it's the number one selling hot sauce in America.
"There is a high that comes from eating spicy foods—this goes for sriracha and other spicy foods," he says. "Anything that leads to some level of a high will inspire some level of devotion."
If the factory is shut down and you still need to get your sriracha fix, Pashman suggests checking out this article by Serious Foods: "How to Make Sriracha from Scratch."