Sriracha has been dubbed a kind of “hipster ketchup.” Where did it all begin though? Contrary to popular belief, the original Sriracha actually got its start in Thailand. The flavor enhancer consisting of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt gets its namesake from the coastal city of Si Racha in eastern Thailand where it is commonly used as a dipping sauce for seafood.
A local woman named Thanom Chakkapak started making the popular sauce over 80 years ago, originally for her friends and family, but later released it commercially as Sriraja Panich. Traditionally, this Thai version of Sriracha hot sauce tends to be a bit tangier and runnier than what has become so popular in the states. Although it has its roots in the original Thai sauce, what Americans know as Sriracha comes from a Vietnamese refugee named David Tran.
David Tran began making hot sauce in Vietnam in 1975, using peppers from his brother’s farm just north of Saigon. However, as the new Communist government’s persecution of ethnic Chinese intensified, Tran, among three thousand other refugees, escaped on a Taiwanese freighter called the Huey Fong heading for Hong Kong.
In 1979, Tran was finally granted asylum in the US. One year later he founded Huy Fong Foods, Inc. named after the ship that brought him out of Vietnam. In addition to Sriracha, Huy Fong Foods also made Pepper Sa-te Sauce, Sambal Oelek, Chili Garlic, and Sambal Badjak.
Eventually, Huy Fong outgrew its first facility just seven years after beginning production and Tran decided to move operations. He settled on purchasing a 68,000-sq. ft. building in Rosemead, California. Sales continued to soar, necessitating even further expansion. In 2010, work began on a 650,000-square foot facility in Irwindale, California.