By now, you’ve probably tasted sriracha. What started as a simple Thai condiment has since exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, and the only way to have not tried it by now is to have actively avoided it. A thing of cultish devotion, some people never leave home without some handy. But even if you never encounter a food you don’t deem sriracha-worthy, we bet there’s a lot you didn’t know about this now-legendary condiment.
Sriracha most likely was invented in Thailand in the 1930s, although the exact place and inventor is still disputed. A slightly different version cropped up in Vietnam shortly thereafter, and this is the version we know and love here today, largely thanks to one man: David Tran, the founder of Huy Fong Foods, the maker of the famous red bottle that you’ll find nowadays in nearly every supermarket.
Tran founded Huy Fong in California in 1980, using a recipe he developed in Vietnam. The sauce, which is made with red jalapeño chiles, sugar, salt, garlic, vinegar, and preservatives and thickeners, was a regional favorite for many years before its cult of followers began to grow in the latter part of the 2000s, and demand soon outpaced production. While sriracha is technically a generic term, meaning that anyone can make and market their own, it’s Huy Fong’s version that really captured the zeitgeist.
When sriracha’s popularity hit a tipping point sometime around 2011, it really hit it. After spending years as a cult favorite, suddenly it became the exciting new condiment, and everybody wanted in. Not only did millions of people buy a bottle of their own and begin experimenting with it, companies from White Castle to Chobani began adding sriracha-kicked foods to their lineups, and now there’s even sriracha-flavored vodka (and much worse). Today, sriracha has settled into a comfortable place as the cool kid on the block that’s got plenty of street cred, and it looks like it’s going to be there for a very long time.