I was fortunate to score a pass to the Huy Fong Foods factory tour today, the first day of the chili-grinding season at the world-famous sriracha maker. Last year I tried to make reservations too late and everything was booked, so this year once the announcement was made, I immediately booked online and got a 2pm slot for today.
My wife and I took our good friends Dave and Liz, fellow foodies whom I consider family, not just friends. We arrived early and saw lots of people milling around with all kinds of sriracha gear, from hats and shirts to socks and capes(!).
Here’s a pictorial of our day at the factory’s open house and tour (click on the photos for a larger version):
After checking in and putting on the required hairnets (and a facial hairnet for yours truly), we began the self-guided tour. We walked through the ginormous space filled with crates and crates of sriracha (think the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark) and found ourselves at the loading dock, just as a truck full of chilis pulled up. While none of us could smell the chilis when we got to the factory, we could definitely smell them in this area. It was a sight to see … and smell.
We watched the truck dump its contents into the grinder. So cool! These are some potent peppers and my wife was really feeling it. Once we re-entered the building into the main processing area, she was having trouble breathing. Note to any of you potential tour-takers: the smell is strong inside the this part of the factory. If you don’t do spicy, beware. And even if you do like sriracha (like my wife), it can still be pretty overwhelming.
It was quite a sight as we walked a few stairs for an overhead view of the entire operation. There were 55-gallon drums of hot sauce everywhere and I couldn’t help but crack Breaking Bad jokes: “Now we know the secret ingredient: crystal meth!” Later, my wife joked, “There was a fly in there.”
We finished the tour in about 30 minutes. There was a cool Chinese lion dance that wound through part of the facility and continued outside, where the free samples were located.
As part of the open house tour, each guest received free food samples: sriracha popcorn, sriracha potato chips, sriracha croutons, sriracha beef jerky, and sriracha ice cream. Surprisingly, everybody liked the ice cream the best. Each bite was cool and creamy ice cream with a bit of heat as you ate it. We were all impressed by how well they pulled off this balancing act of flavors.
Along with the free tour and free samples, we also received a free plastic Huy Fong Foods cup, t-shirt, and bottle of sriracha. Awesome! We stopped by their gift shop, which was filled with sriracha-themed clothing, food, and novelties, all priced reasonably (I scored a $5 shirt for my dad, a $1.50 I Love Sriracha button for myself, and a few other things).
I almost forgot to mention that we got to meet David Tran, the founder of Huy Fong Foods! We all took photos with him and it was an honor to meet this living legend. His sriracha has saved many a mediocre dish for me and elevated a few of my better meals as well.
A fantastic day spent with fantastic people. I could get used to celebrating chili-grinding season like this.