Sriracha: Hot Sauce House Tour

After a fiery controversy over spicy pepper fumes in 2013, the Huy Fong Sriracha factory, located 30 minutes outside of Los Angeles in Irwindale (population approximately 1,400), cleaned up its act—as well as its air—and now fuels the condiment’s cult status with facility tours.

Sriracha is a generic term, named after a port city in Thailand where the sauce was supposedly born. Most Americans squeeze the green-capped Huy Fong version, created by Vietnamese immigrant David Tran using fresh California-grown jalapeños.

In fact, Tran fled communist Vietnam on a freighter named Huy Fong in 1979, and went on to name his company after the boat that led him to his new life in the United States.

Tran, who once sold an early version of his handmade hot sauce in recycled baby jars in Vietnam, never anticipated that his spicy chili paste would inspire dedicated cookbooks, food festivals, and an affinity among astronauts in space. Though his company produces three sauces, each sharing the same base—Sambal Oelek and Chili Garlic—sriracha is the most popular by far.

View the behind-the-scenes process on the factory tour, from crushing peppers to constructing bottles—just don’t breathe in too deeply.

Christine Blau is a researcher at National Geographic Traveler magazine on a life-long hunt for authentic local flavor. Follow Christine on Twitter @Chris_Blau and on Instagram @ChristineBlau

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