By Kristine Hansen
IRWINDALE, Calif. — Sriracha — a hefty hot sauce made from chili paste, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt and garlic — has catapulted into popularity in recent years. It’s a staple on most restaurant tables these days, and it has inspired chefs to craft innovative dishes.
In 1980, Huy Fong Foods founder and owner David Tran relocated to Los Angeles County after five years of making this sauce in Vietnam, continuing his production in this country.
Enthusiasts won’t want to miss the opportunity to tour Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, where an in-depth look at production, as well as tasting of samples, is offered. Open only for a few years now, it’s a step up from the company’s beginnings in Chinatown, then the L.A. suburb of Rosemead.
The 30-minute tours of the 650,000-square-foot facility are free.
“You walk our entire process,” said Sabrina Martinez, a tour guide. “We run very uniquely. A lot of what we do is in-house.”
For groups, it’s recommended to call ahead and schedule a tour, especially during the fall when the chiles are ground into paste and the daily workings of the company are very busy.
During autumn (September through December) only groups of up to 12 can be accommodated while the maximum group size expands to 26 for the rest of the year. But it’s also a fun time to visit.
“In grinding season, you get to see it from pepper to sauce,” Martinez said.
Around 100 million pounds of chile peppers are ground into paste, filling 55-gallon blue drums, before they undergo the production process and are packaged for retail. Visitors can tour the warehouse where the paste is stored and view the bottling process.
From Sept. 12 to Oct. 17, a self-guided open house is held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It features cultural events, like a lion dance on select Saturdays and samples of food products featuring Sriracha, like popcorn, chips and salad croutons.
“It’s open to anyone who wants to come out and visit us,” Martinez said. “A lot of times, guests get to meet David Tran, the CEO and master mind of the company.”
Motorcoaches can park in a dedicated lot for buses that is separate from the visitors’ parking lot.
For more information, call 626-286-8328 or visit huyfong.com.