A staple of Vietnamese restaurants, sriracha sauce can add a hint of heat to aromatic pho. It’s the star ingredient in the spicy mayonnaise that makes countless sushi rolls zigzag, and it’s even inspired a legion of fans to dress up for Halloween every year as a red plastic bottle with a green cap.
But this year, a shortage of red jalapeño peppers has threatened everything for sriracha, a beloved condiment made from Mexican sun-ripened peppers and seasoned with vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic.
Huy Fong Foods, an Irwindale, Calif.-based company that produces one of the world’s most popular sriracha sauces, has confirmed it is experiencing an “unprecedented shortage” affecting all of its chili products, which include also chili garlic. sauce and sambal oelek.
In an emailed statement, a company representative said the issue resulted from “several spiraling events, including an unexpected crop failure in Chile’s spring crop.” Huy Fong Foods typically consumes 100 million pounds of chili peppers each year, the representative added.
The company had announced the sriracha shortage in an April letter to customers announcing that adverse weather conditions had led to a “serious shortage” of chillies. He said all orders placed after mid-April would be suspended until September.
“Unfortunately this is beyond our control and without this essential ingredient we cannot produce any of our products,” the company wrote.
A persistent drought this year in Mexico has hampered irrigation and caused “dramatically low yields” of red chili peppers, which are grown mainly in four northern states of the country in the first four months of the year, Guillermo Murray said. -Tortarolo, who studies the climate. studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Climate change is a possible factor behind the drought, Murray-Tortarolo said, adding that the drought was very likely to intensify and cause future production supply problems and cost increases. for the customers.
In a 2013 documentary called “Sriracha”, David Tran, the founder of Huy Fong Foods, described the enduring popularity of sriracha and how it all started.
After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, Mr. Tran landed in Los Angeles, where he decided to make sriracha, a sauce said to have been invented by a Thai woman named Thanom Chakkapak. In 1980, he was mixing his sauce and delivering orders in his blue Chevy pickup truck. In the decades since, interest in sriracha has skyrocketed, Tran said in the documentary.
Severe weather in the United States
“Over the past 30 years, the economy has sometimes had its ups and downs, for me I don’t feel anything,” Tran said. “Every day, every month, the volume increases.” In 2013, he said, the company was making 70,000 bottles of sauce daily from red jalapeño peppers.
Now, squeeze bottles are a valuable commodity for panicked customers cleaning grocery store aisles and rationing the rest of their stash.
Joyce Park, a longtime sriracha fan who lives in Seattle, said she grabbed bottles whenever she saw them at the store, a case she described as increasingly rare. Ms Park had hoped to marinate meat in sriracha to serve at her upcoming barbecue wedding in her garden. She said she could instead make chicken seasoned with Tajín, a Mexican product made with chili salt and lime.
“I only have three bottles. What am I going to do?” Ms Park, 53, said. “It’s an emergency but there are other spicy foods, hopefully.”
On Twitter, others posted images of hopeful expeditions in search of sriracha. Some who were unsuccessful said they had to resort to buying alternative brands of sriracha.
Friends alerted Lurene Kelley, 51, of Memphis, Tennessee, to the plight of spicy condiments. For a decade, she says, she’s been known for topping “almost every savory dish” with sriracha.
It’s not just sriracha that worries him, but also sambal oelek, a pure chili paste also sold by Huy Fong Foods.
“I don’t even know how to eat a Vietnamese spring roll without this sauce!” exclaimed Mrs. Kelley. “Now it’s a food crisis.”
Restaurants said they were also feeling the shortage.
Hanoi House, a Vietnamese restaurant located in New York’s East Village, uses sambal oelek to make many of its sauces. When the restaurant’s supplier was sold out in sambal oelek for several days recently, the restaurant had to gather a small amount from several retail stores, said Sara Leveen, co-owner of Hanoi House.
“We have been able to build up a small stock which should last us several weeks,” Ms Leveen said. “So we’ll go from there.”
Other companies, such as Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi, which also use Mexican chili peppers for their products, said they were bracing for the impact.
“It hasn’t been passed on to a small supplier like me yet, but I think that just means it’s happening,” said Lauryn Chun, who founded Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi in New York 13 years ago. .
The shortage of chili has been another hurdle in two years of supply chain difficulties, Chun added.
“There’s been a price increase for every single thing that goes into making anything over the last two years,” she said.
As for what the future holds, Huy Fong Foods said in a statement that it hopes for a “fruitful fall season.”
Kirsten Noyescontributed to the research.