Each month, Jimmy Ly usually orders approximately 150 bottles of sriracha from Huy Fong Foods for one of his Vietnamese restaurants in New York City. The sauce opens up the richness of pho broth or adds a blast of heat to banh xiu, a Vietnamese crepe.
“It is not very hot; Mr. Lee said. Sriracha can “really hit the sweet spot in terms of spice and sweetness and acidity, just that tang.”
But a few months ago, the supply started to dry up.
Mr. Lee, who owns Madame Vo and Monsieur Vo in Manhattan’s East Village, said his vendors couldn’t get the sauce and that he couldn’t find it in New York City grocery stores. So, like some other Huy Fong enthusiasts, he bought two large bottles on eBay for $35 each, about five times the usual price, to use at home. But this price was insurmountable for his business.
For the second year in a row, Huy Fong, the manufacturer of the most popular sriracha, is experiencing production problems, the company said in a statement this month, due to a “lack of raw materials” with “no estimate of when supply will increase.”
The shortage has forced chefs like Mr. Lee to look for alternatives and adapt recipes. Plastic bottles with green caps are missing from grocery stores, and Walmart It sells for two packages of 17-ounce bottles for $86. Some die-hard fans have taken drastic measures to pay exorbitant prices. Others have resigned themselves to a kinder life.
In its statement, Huy Fong said that “limited production has recently resumed” but since the company does not sell directly to consumers, “we cannot say when the product will hit shelves again.”
The shortage does not appear to extend to other hot sauce producers.
“We have contracts with small New England farmers where we buy our produce,” said Gabe Disaverio, founder of Spicy Shark, a maker of hot sauces. I have not seen problems there. I’ve seen a very steady stock of all peppers really.”
Mr. Disaverio speculated that the Huy Fong Sriracha shortage could be attributed to a problem with its suppliers. Huy Fong Foods did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Tabasco, which uses red jalapeño peppers from the US and Latin America, isn’t experiencing any shortages either, though the company acknowledges that last year’s bad weather took a toll on the industry. The company says it has ramped up production and started srirachashortage.com to meet increased demand.
Hot sauce makers also emphasize that sriracha is a type of sauce, not a spice or pepper. Since many people equate Huy Fong with sriracha, it may seem as if there is a universal shortage of sauce. There is not.
Since Huy Fong sriracha shortages were back in the news, he said, he has seen an uptick in sriracha orders, including Including restaurants that may not display bottles on their tables.
Mr. Milton also said that he was not affected by any shortage of raw materials. “The growing seasons are getting weirder and weirder every year,” he said, adding that he has had to rely on multiple suppliers for his ingredients in the past.
Huy Fong’s origins date back to 1975, when company founder David Tran fled Vietnam and settled in Los Angeles. He began mixing his own version of sriracha, a sauce believed to have been invented by a Thai woman named Thanom Chakkapak, and by 1980 he was delivering orders in his blue Chevy van.
Huy Fong partnered with California-based Underwood Ranches in 1988 to offer the red jalapeños that help give Huy Fong’s sriracha signature taste. By 2015, Underwood, 70 miles east of Huy Fong’s operations in Irwindale, was growing more than 100 million pounds of pepper annually for Huy Fong products.
But this exclusive relationship ended in 2016 due to a payment dispute. in 2019, A jury awarded Underwood $23 million in damages.
Since the fallout, Huy Fong has had to look beyond his backyard for peppers, relying largely on Mexican plantations.
In recent years, Huy Fong has blamed climate change and a severe drought in Mexico that hit jalapeno crops for a shortage of chile peppers. While that’s true, growing conditions have improved this year, said Stephanie Walker, a chile pepper researcher at New Mexico State University. She added that Huy Fong’s shortage problems may be due to the company not having enough contracts with different farmers.
Craig Underwood, owner of Underwood Ranch, which now makes its own Sriracha, said he saw no problem sourcing jalapenos from Mexico.
“We had a huge demand for our products from previous Huy Fong customers, as well as from people on the street looking for sriracha,” he said.
However, for many people, Hui Fung is a must-make Sriracha.
In Houston, home to the largest Vietnamese population in the country, Mai’s is famous for passing out at least 15 bottles of Sriracha every day. Anna Pham, the restaurant’s general manager, said the restaurant had been warned of an imminent stock shortage. But her reserves have been depleted and she is now following advice from vendors about where Huy Fong sriracha might be available.
Ms. Pham said she recently went to a grocery store in Bellaire, Texas, about 20 minutes outside of Houston, where she was strapped into buying 12 bottles at nearly “insane” $10 a bottle.
“It’s like ketchup to Americans,” said Ms. Pham. “It’s like having salt and pepper shakers on your table. I can’t imagine not having it.”