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State Legislator Joins Texans Who Have The Hots For Sriracha Hot Sauce


Will Sriracha start doing the Texas two-step?

Sriracha, the popular hot sauce with a strong taste and an even stronger following, has been in lots of trouble in California. So now Texas is trying to woo Huy Fong Foods, the company that makes the sauce.

The plant that makes the sauce produces a strong odor. Neighbors aren’t happy. Huy Fong had to shut down part of its operation after the city of Irwindale, Calif., filed suit.

Who’s jumped on the Sriracha bandwagon?

Add a Texas state representative to the list of folks who want to give Sriracha a big “Howdy.”

State Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas County Republican, has sent a letter to Huy Fong, extending an invitation to move to Texas.

“I am extremely troubled by excessive government interference in the operations of private, job-creating businesses like Huy Fong Foods,” Villalba wrote. “You have worked too hard and have helped too many people to let government bureaucrats shut down your thriving business.”

Villalba is a big Sriracha fan.

Here’s some evidence -- from a recent lunch:

Villalba told KUT, the public radio station in Austin, that the Texas Enterprise Fund could offer incentives to Huy Fong. Producing Sriracha in Texas could bring as many as 500 jobs to the state.

KUT reported:

It could also mean, however, a flavor-change for the sauce, as the California-grown peppers provide the distinct flavor profile.  But, Villalba says, the company could ship the peppers in from California. 

He’s not the only one

Have you heard of Denton’s “Sriracha Savior?”

In October, Denton City Council member Kevin Roden invited Huy Fong to relocate to Denton. D Magazine features Roden in its January issue, dubbing him the “Sriracha savior.” Roden told the magazine he's received inquiries from investors across the country who want to know more about Denton.

This week, Roden told KERA that he received a letter from Huy Fong Foods.

“We are honored to know that we are welcomed in Denton, Texas,” the letter states. “Thank you for the offer to us of relocating our company. It makes us humbled to know that the people as well as you support our sauce to the point of thinking of welcoming us in their city.”

The letter continues: “At the moment, we are still sorting out this situation and we hope to receive a positive outcome to all these issues.”

But there’s competition

Watch out, though. Other states want a splash of Sriracha.

In Pennsylvania, Jim Kenney a Philadelphia City Councilman, sent a letter to Huy Fong, encouraging the company to move.

“Kenney plays up Philly's Vietnamese-American population and our infatuation with underdogs as he tries to convince Tran that the grass is greener in Philadelphia,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Why is Sriracha so popular?

Last year,Bloomberg Businessweek explored the sauce's popularity. Some tidbits:

There’s a theory that space somehow dulls the taste buds. So to ensure its astronauts enjoyed a flavorful meal, [NASA's] food sciences division began sending Huy Fong’s sriracha into orbit a decade ago. ...  When people in America talk about sriracha, what they’re really talking about is Huy Fong’s version. It’s been name-checked on The Simpsons, is featured prominently on the Food Network, and has inspired a cottage industry of knockoffs, small-batch artisanal homages, and merchandise ranging from iPhone cases to air fresheners to lip balm to sriracha-patterned high heels. ... [Years ago], Kara Nielsen got her first glimpse of Huy Fong sriracha. She was a pastry chef at Lalime’s, a pricey restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. Rooster sauce wasn’t on the menu, but it was a favorite of the restaurant’s Asian cooks and was usually on the table when the employees sat down together for a meal. Nielsen, now a “trendologist” at CCD Innovation, a culinary consultancy in San Francisco, says that was a classic Stage 1 scenario in the five-stage process of unknown products turning into household names. Although sriracha was already a staple in Asian grocery stores, its emergence in the kitchens of fine-dining restaurants meant it was beginning to cross over.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.