Sick and tired of essentially living inside a giant cloud of pepper spray, residents of Irwindale, CA petitioned to have the Huy Fong Foods factory (makers of Sriracha) shut down until they can regulate their fumes. Yesterday, city officials filed suit. A judge will decide on Thursday whether or not to grant the order.
Via the LA Times:
In Irwindale, where the hot sauce’s production facilities are, residents are complaining of burning eyes, irritated throats and headaches caused by a powerful, painful odor that the city says appears to be emanating from the factory during production. The smell is so aggressive that one family was forced to move a birthday party indoors after the spicy odor descended on the festivities, said Irwindale City Atty. Fred Galante.
...All of the chili needed for producing the year’s sauce is processed and stored during a three-month period beginning as early as September and concluding sometime before or during December.
The city is asking a judge to stop production at the hot sauce factory until the company submits a plan of action for mitigating the spicy odors, Galante said.
I'm trying to be pragmatic about this, and remind myself that my desire to eat perfectly spicy pho does not trump other human beings' desires not to live inside of a suffocating, burning stank-cloud (#humanitarian). So, FINE. Do your thing, Irwindale.
Until this issue gets resolved (and it will get resolved, right? Someone will rescue Sriracha, RIGHT!?), I'm just going to prepare for the worst and learn how to make my own Sriracha at home. David Tran, the inventor of Sriracha, began selling it out of a bucket to a handful of customers in 1980. He gives some coy hints about its simplicity:
His recipe for Sriracha is so simple that the Vietnamese immigrant has never bothered to conceal it: chili pepper, garlic, salt, sugar and vinegar.
"You could make it yourself at home," he told a visitor during a tour of the plant on Tuesday. But, he added with a twinkle in his eye, not nearly as well as he can.
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, DAVID TRAN.
The LA Times test kitchen offers this recipe:
1 pound mixed fresh red chiles (such as red Fresnos or jalapeños), stemmed and chopped
2 to 4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cane or rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, more if desired
2 tablespoons palm or light brown sugar, more if desired
1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the chiles, garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar to form a coarse paste.
2. Remove the mixture to a non-reactive saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the aroma softens or mellows a bit, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Blend the sauce again to form a smooth paste, thinning as desired with water.
4. Strain the sauce, pressing the solids through a fine mesh strainer with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Taste the sauce, and tweak the flavors as desired with additional salt, sugar or vinegar. Remove the sauce to a glass jar or bottle and cool completely. Refrigerate until needed.
There are plenty more recipes to choose from online, depending on your taste. This extremely thorough post on Serious Eats offers an in-depth investigation of which chiles are best (red jalapeños), whether or not you should blanch your garlic (no), and how to ferment your chile paste (which the LA Times version doesn't bother with).
And here's another recipe, from Kimchi Mom, who experimented with both a fresh and a fermented version. The fermented, she says, hews closer to storebought Sriracha, but of the fresh version, "I swear I could eat it by the spoonfuls straight out of the jar." Good to know!
Okay, look. Full disclosure. I talk a big talk, but I AM PROBABLY NOT GOING TO GET AROUND TO DOING THIS. SO JUST FIX THE GODDAMN SRIRACHA FACTORY ALREADY, GAHD.
Image via the Associated Press.