Thursday, August 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Good news, spice girls and boys!

Update - 10:40am Friday:

Good news, spice girls and boys!

Sriracha bottle.
Sriracha bottle.

Update - 10:40am Friday:

The Sriracha factory I wrote about Wednesday has avoided a shutdown … at least for now.

The L.A. Times is reporting that the judge in the case has denied the city of Irwindale's request for a temporary restraining order to shut down production at Huy Fong Foods, the manufacturer of Sriracha. Judge Robert H. O'Brien has set a hearing for Nov. 22 to determine whether the hot-sauce manufacturing should be halted until the company remediates its odor problems.

In the spirit of another famous Los Angeles poet, Huy Fong Foods’ CEO and founder David Tran was quoted as saying, “If it doesn't smell, we can't sell.”

This development is sure to please plenty of Philadelphians who made a mad rush to Asian supermarkets over the past two days.

One such fan is Graduate Hospital resident Laura Blanchard, who told me yesterday that she purchased a dozen 28-ounce bottles of Sriracha on Wednesday at the BIG 8 Supermarket at 1601 Washington Ave. in South Philly.

“They're on permanent special – 2 for $5,” Blanchard said. “My checker lady didn't believe it. The checkers were surprised."

Initial posting - 3:47pm Wednesday:

My red-hot addiction

I have an addiction. It’s something I’ve never publicly talked about.

Until now.

I want to share my story with you, as I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I’m sort of embarrassed to talk about it, but if my story helps even just one other person, then it’s worth it.

My wife knows about my drug of choice. She mostly looks the other way unless I take too much of it. Then, she tells me to stop it and that I’ll regret it.

She’s usually right. I pay for it later that day.

I’m not the only one with this problem. Apparently, the Irwindale, Calif. producer of this drug has been so successful that they can now produce up to 200,000 bottles a day.

That’s a lot of demand for this natural, homegrown product.

On their website – yep, they are bold enough to have an Internet presence – they say “Due to an increase in orders, we are currently experiencing a delay in processing orders,” adding, “We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.”

I appreciate for such an addictive product that they are out in the open and are candid with us junkies.

Of course, it looks like the government is now stepping in, too. That may add an even greater delay of the distribution.

The government is threatening to close down their operations tomorrow. Irwindale officials are asking a judge to stop production of the product, saying “it's making residents' eyes water and throats burn.”

No. It’s not a meth lab.

It’s something much more insidious.

It’s Sriracha.

Say what?

Is that some kind of Asian street drug?

Well, not exactly.

But to me – and many others – it’s a staple of our everyday existence.

Yep, Sriracha. It’s that “magic” hot sauce made from spicy red jalapeno peppers, garlic, salt, sugar and vinegar. You may have seen the clear bottle with the red sauce and the colorful, usually green, top.

Here in Chinatown, it is found in most restaurants – albeit a weaker version. Yes, I have actually seen one restaurant pouring a watered-down version back into the original bottles during down time.

And the diluting of the hot sauce may get more extreme over the next few weeks, as Irwindale officials filed a suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday against the sauce's company, Huy Fong Foods, claiming the odor from the manufacturing process was a public nuisance. They have asked a judge to stop production immediately.

This story first became known to me courtesy of a Facebook posting by Philadelphia’s own self-described “steakprincess,”Danielle Olivieri, one of the owners of the original Pat’s King of Steaks.

I spoke to Olivieri by phone late this morning. She was half joking but half serious when I told her I’d be writing about her obscure posting.

“I gotta get outta bed and get some. I wonder if they sell it at BJ’s? My mom just called from BJ’s. She asked if I need anything,” Olivieri quipped.

Olivieri said she was having sushi at home yesterday when her daughter looked in the fridge and said, “Oh my God, it’s done. There’s nothing in here.”

Luckily for her daughter, Olivieri told me, “We had an extra one in the cupboard.” Unfortunately for them both, that was her last.

 “I was going to go buy some today,” Olivieri said, adding, “Is there going to be a mad rush for sriracha.”

“If it’s there and there’s an extra bottle, I’ll pick you up some. We gotta stick together,” Olivieri told me.

I checked with the South Philly BJ’s. Unfortunately, a representative told me on the phone they don’t carry Sriracha.

But don’t be sad.

I live in Chinatown, and there are plenty of grocery stores here that do … for now, at least.

Let the mad rush on Sriracha begin!

John Featherman
About this blog
John Featherman is a contributor at Philly.com and writes about politics and consumer-related issues. Reach John at john@featherman.com.

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