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Sriracha hit revenue of $150M a year with no sales team or ad spend (twitter.com/trungtphan)
799 points by dsr12 34 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 469 comments



My guess as to why it's successful is that it's always been moderately priced and Huy Fong is recognized as the originator of the "Americanized Sriracha" sauces.

If a company tries to sell a cheaper version - then it feels like a cheap knock-off. And as everybody can afford to buy the original, why wouldn't you?

If a company tried to sell a more expensive premium product in flashier packaging - then it would feel inauthentic. What are you paying more for?

Plus whilst they've not paid for advertising, they've performed an excellent job of ensuring I'm aware of their history. I've no idea of the history of say Tabasco or Franks - but I've many times heard the history of this plucky little immigrant founded company (and this thread is just a continuation). Maybe the key is to just have a likable story - and let others tell it.


It is basically like Heinz Ketchup.

It reaches a point where it has economy of scale and specific taste profile developed that it is very hard for others to break into the market. Similar to bake beans for those living in UK.

The cost of ingredient is so low in the overall of things, restaurants, owner, vendors or whatever are not willing to switch ingredients and risk losing their customers. Tabasco is similar because majority of their business actually resides in Food Services sector and not consumers. The basic rule of thumb in Food offering, dont FUCK with your recipes.

I remember when I was still in the Food sector I was trying to import and distribute Sriracha for years in the late 00s and very early 10s. Every time the answer has been not enough capacity. Demand outstripping Supply in most of their important / domestic ( US ) market. Importers have to rely on non-official parallel import channels. Somehow I think it went internet viral by mid 10s, which in turns generate further interest. And a whole positive feedback loop was formed. Worth noting is that these things takes a long time to make. I dont know about Sriracha but Tabasco takes up to three years. Once you factor in capacity planning and sourcing of quality chillies ( and assuming yields are good ), that is why supply takes time to catch up.

Unfortunately these type of investment takes a very long time and are not something VC likes to invest in. But for me they are sometimes far more interesting and fascinating than most tech.


Heinz ketchup is on a whole different level; it's not just that it's the default ketchup (which it is), it's that:

1) When ketchup is called for, there isn't a substitute condiment that's kind of similar. Sriracha in general is a subset of hot sauces, but nobody thinks of a general case for ketchup--it's just ketchup. Maybe there are situations where no hot sauce but sriracha will do, but that's much rarer in the US (where Huy Fong dominates the market).

2) There are no Fancy Dijon Ketchups. The food snobs don't have an artisan brand they like better; Heinz is as good as it gets. It's Andy Warhol's old observation that the President drinks the same Coke that you do, only more so--there are way more niche colas than niche ketchups.


In Europe it’s pretty common to have non-Heinz ketchup, of which there are many[0] kinds[1]. Even in America, where Heinz is super popular, I can remember eating other[2] ketchups as far back as the 1980’s. And nowadays even my supermarket has fancy ketchups here in rural California, though that may be a CA thing.

0: https://hungarianmeatmarket.com/product/univer-ketchup/

1: https://www.google.com/search?q=dutch+catsup&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF...

2: https://www.delmonte.com/products/tomatoes/condiments/ketchu...


Heinz hurt itself a little bit when they stopped making it with Canadian tomatoes and shut down a plant here, then a (US-based!) competitor (French’s) grabbed some market-share at the low end with a Canadian-based product.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/french-s-heinz-ketchup-leam...


I much prefer French's and this news article makes it taste even better!


The same applies to Norway. The most popular ketchup is not even Heinz, but a national brand

https://meny.no/varer/middagstilbehor/ketchup-og-sennep/ketc...


Idun Ketchup FTW! Their new unsweetened variant, also with less salt and no preservatives, is pretty good and should be export material!


3. https://www.hela.eu/en/hela-at-home/products/product-finder/...

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hela_Gew%C3%BCrzwerk_Hermann_L... which I prefer over any Heinz(I have tried so far). Though I have not much use for Ketchup, so can't tell with certainty.


Also interestingly, for example here in southern Africa we don't really have ketchup, we only eat tomato sauce (as the closest relative).

We did have a Heinz SA, but they are failing and will be discontinued. I'm guessing that all the locals stuck to their preferred brands and no one else made enough of an inroad.


2) Been to plenty of restaraunts that tout house-made ketchup. Sure Heinz has natural recipe variations out now, but the dijon of ketchup would be small batch sourced from garden fresh tomatoes and high end vinegar.

I've seen plenty of brands in specialty markets that are more expensive than Heinz for that reason.


I may be in a bit of a bubble then; I think I've only been to one restaurant that made their own ketchup (for their duck-fat fries, and they were definitely an outlier). I'm sure now that I'm looking out for them, I will now see high-end small-batch ketchups everywhere.


I've seen it once or twice.

I'm curious how trends will go in the future -- maybe next year will be all about artisanal small-batch ketchups, who knows -- but it wouldn't surprise me if ~everyone who likes ketchup on things is perfectly happy with Heinz 57 and ~most people who want something else for their burgers, fries or steaks want something different. BBQ sauce, mayo, mustard, sriracha, guac, mole... and not just "ketchup, but better".

Like, imagine your friend excitedly dragging you to a new restaurant, where they serve their house-made fries with ________. The world of things that can go in that blank is so large I have a hard time imagining "artisanal ketchup" being the thing that wins out.


Whataburger uses and now bottles and sells their own ketchup. I think it is phenomenal, and I'm a fan of Heinz.


I was looking for Whataburger as a counterexample here to the sentiment that there are no widespread Heinz alternatives and found it in your comment. It’s the perfect counterexample to OP’s comment in multiple ways -

1. It’s widespread (not even artisanal) in the regions it is deployed in. I can walk into my neighborhood grocery store in Texas and always expect to see Whataburger Spicy Ketchup in the condiment aisle.

2. The spicy ketchup is a genuinely superior product to Heinz. It just straight up tastes better, feels less sugary, and it’s far enough ahead in quality that I actively seek it out over “regular” ketchup.


Humor piece about restaurants that make their own ketchup:

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/we-do-our-own-li...


> There are no Fancy Dijon Ketchups.

Yeah, there are. Lots, actually.

> The food snobs don't have an artisan brand they like better

Sure, they do (lots of them—as with mustards contrasted with basic French’s yellow, plenty of different styles—for different foodies, some that are refinements of the mass market style, e.g., Annie’s Organics entry, but lots that go with more distinct flavor, especially spice, profiles; Maya Kaimal Spicy Ketchup would be an example in this category.) What there might not be is a Grey Poupon equivalent, a succesfully mass-marketed mass-appeal entry brand to the not-the-basic-thing segment.


The fancy Dijon ketchup never tastes better though. It just tastes different, and sometimes worse.

Heinz has had decades and armies of food scientists and tasters to dial in their recipe. The only way to compete with that is to make a ketchup that is less appealing to the average person but more appealing to some niche subset of people (e.g. crank up or down the acidity or sweetness).


> he only way to compete with that is to make a ketchup that is less appealing to the average person but more appealing to some niche subset of people

You sound like it's some kind of bizzarre weird strategy that only few insane weirdos would try. As in fact that's how most of the food brands (by number, not by volume) would work - find your niche and serve it. And not only food, of course. Some produce average food for "average person", some produce excellent food for people that value it. That's how it has always been.


I don't agree. The reason that average people eat average quality food is because they get paid average wages, not because they don't value the good stuff.

For instance, pretty much anybody will prefer high quality ice cream to basic ice cream, but the reason that basic ice cream still exists is because the fancy stuff costs 5x more.

The problem with making a "fancy" ketchup is that ketchup is a completely artificial food. The quality of a ketchup is in how balanced it is. And balancing a ketchup is a fixed cost not a marginal cost. Whoever makes the most revenue will have the best ketchup.


I have very hard time believing it. Food that I consider above average may be a little more expensive, but mainly because it's much less mass-produced. And there's better quality ice cream that costs roughly about the same (though much harder to find), and terrible quality ice cream that costs more. We don't have to go far - Coca Cola earns billions selling basically caffeinated sugar water. Not because people don't have any money to buy better drinks. Because people want to buy specifically sugar water, because they have learned that's what cool people drink.

Finding a working ketchup formula may be not easy. But you have to do it once. Then that's it, you can sell it forever. And it doesn't take that much. As well as it doesn't take it that much to not just stuff tomato paste with as much sugar as chemistry would allow and call it "ketchup". And yet, mass brands to that and a lot of people happily buy it.

Better stuff may cost more, because of smaller volumes and better quality controls, but not 5x. At least not all of them. I just checked the list of ketchups in Whole Foods. Heintz is 17c per ounce. 365 brand is 8.7c/oz. Others range from 18c to 73c, pretty much equally distributed. Yes, there's one 5x brand - but that's one, out of a dozen. And that's just one store, I'm sure there are more brands which will occupy the whole gamut from 1x to 10x (I am sure somebody somewhere sells a ketchup for more than a dollar per oz, even if I haven't seen one).


> The reason that average people eat average quality food is because they get paid average wages, not because they don't value the good stuff.

Tastes really aren't universal and, more than that, have a certain average (though there is large individual variation) contribution from familiarity and other path-dependent effects.

Do average people eat average food because of average income, or average tastes, of average tastes due to average income? Each is part of the story (and how much of a part each is varies from person to person and category of food.)


> The fancy Dijon ketchup never tastes better though.

To your taste, sure. For lots of people, the same thing is true of dijon (and other not-French’s-yellow) mustard.

OTOH, plenty of people disagree with you on that, which is why there are established, succesful—if individually mostly niche—alternatives.

> Heinz has had decades and armies of food scientists and tasters to dial in their recipe.

So did French’s. The hard part of getting broad reach on alternatives isn’t making some alternative that enough people will like if they try, but getting enough people over the activation energy threshold to try. Grey Poupon’s breakout marketing campaign in the 80s did that for mustard; there hasn't been an equivalent for ketchup.

And, sure, that probably doesn’t unseat the dominant player, but that’s not what thr uothread discussion of “dijon” alternatives was about.


> There are no Fancy Dijon Ketchups. The food snobs don't have an artisan brand they like better; Heinz is as good as it gets.

Sure there are. There's lots of alternative ketchups both on the health scale (less or no high fructose corn syrup) and taste scale (spicier, smokier, you name it).

I use ketchup semi-regularly but haven't bought the Heinz type in ages (primarily to avoid so much fructose, but it's also fun to experiment with the different flavors).


To add to dragonwriter’s response, I raise you Sir Kensington’s [1]. They’re popular in San Francisco (used at Super Duper Burgers, for example) and available at Whole Foods and on Good Eggs.

Even Heinz offers its own organic variant [2], but IIRC it’s not particularly different from the regular.

Finally, the category also includes tomato “jam” (and some might include tomato chutney), tomato-based BBQ sauces, and even tomato-based salsa (commonly used for egg dishes in place of ketchup).

[1] https://www.sirkensingtons.com/product/ketchup

[2] https://www.heinz.com/product/00013000008990


But I disagree - I used to buy Heinz by default, but switched to "Wilkin & Sons Tiptree Tomato Sauce"

Heinz is a 'default' - and absence of it used to indicate the replacement was worse. Now - plenty of better options, just maybe without the brand recognition.

Heinz is a good baseline - you know what you're getting.


I grew up on Heinz, but nowadays it tastes overly processed and heavy (and too sweet) to me. I'll usually get Annie's if it's available. I'll still eat Heinz if that's what's there, but I don't prefer it.


Hunt's, and Red Gold are two larger brands that I see frequently.


There are niche ketchups. I buy them from time to time - since regular ones (including Heinz) have too high sugar content, and also I don't like the taste of Heinz one. So yes, there are different ketchups - and there are different soft drinks too, by the way.

Whole Foods has over 10 brands of ketchup: https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/search?text=ketchup including their own "365" label. It suggests to me if everybody were buying Heinz, they probably wouldn't bother doing their private label?


3) Thanks to us all being fed a steady diet of Heinz ketchup since we were in the womb, all other forms of ketchup taste wrong.


Bit of a food snob here, I usually buy a "fancy" alternative to Heinz even if it's just the Annie's Organic bottle that's also mass-manufactured but to me has a richer vegetable taste and less saccharine sweetness to it. Heinz tastes a bit too much like HFCS-sweetened tomato frosting to me.


Been using Heinz organic ketchup w real sugar (no hfcs) for quite awhile. Tastes great - same grams of sugar per serving as Annies.


Perhaps not fancy, but French’s ketchup is much better, at least in Canada. Less sweet, more tomato flavour.


In India, and stretching into the Indian diaspora worldwide, Maggi Hot and Sweet sauce became extremely popular, and for some things such as samosas you can almost never use the regular Heinz ketchup - it has to be paired with Maggi Hot and Sweet.


Funny. As a german I avoid anything Maggi, while spicing up my pizzas ('Diavolo' which is basically a Pizza Salami with some added red onion stripes and pepperoni) with varying tandoori spice mixes, sometimes chili in addition, about 2 dozen jalapeno slices and Sri Racha :-)


Yeah, heinz tastes weird ... The Indian palate is more used to the Maggi ketchup/sauce taste profile


Just an anecdotal response:

In Quebec there is a pretty proud history of a much different style of ketchup, which is much sweeter with bigger chunks of tomatoes.

It's not uncommon to see traditional-style ketchup options in restaurants and at grocery stores.


> The food snobs don't have an artisan brand they like better; Heinz is as good as it gets.

I'm not convinced that's the case. I mean, yeah, I buy Heinz to go with fries or on my beyond burger, but for a brief time I made my own ketchup using a very simple recipe I found on a youtube channel but substituting my own spice blend and it was amazing. In the end though my palette is not very picky and my inherent laziness won out.

So since I know ketchup can be better than Heinz, I have to expect that there is in fact a fancy branded ketchup out there that is.


> Maybe there are situations where no hot sauce but sriracha will do, but that's much rarer in the US

There are many cases where sriracha not not general hot sauce would work such as dim sum and pho.

And before you counter with "in the US", I'd argue that Huy Fong is much more dominant in California than in the US at large and in California, cuisines where only sriracha type hot sauce and not just any general hot sauce works are much more common.


Perhaps it's a regional thing, but there are definitely places where Red-Gold usage comes close to Heinz. I'd still say Heinz is dominant in said regions, but Red Gold does see usage, and I don't think it's just because of a price difference.

Personally, I like Red Gold on fries more than Heinz. Couldn't explain why very easily as I'm not one to use food terms. Maybe a bit more acidic?


For anyone interested, this is a pretty interesting read about Ketchup and Heinz:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/09/06/the-ketchup-co...


I haven't had Heinz on my table for years and I have young kids.


Curious, here in Sweden I'd say Heinz is pretty close to the bottom of the supermarket ketchup totem pole, while Coke/Pepsi have their usual near-duopoly.


Sweden I'd say Heinz is pretty close to the bottom of the supermarket ketchup totem pole

Really? I'd say it's nr 2 after Felix.


I'd put Slotts in between the two, at least.


Tiptree from England, it’s on Amazon we do have preferences I put Ketchup on my Catsup


My first exposure to Sriracha was the 2014 lawsuit where a plant in California was causing issues.

Queue meeting my now asian wife whose family uses Sriracha in near about everything and it has basically replaced ketchup.

Matter of fact they use it so much it changed MY spice tolerance such that we now have Sriracha Ketchup instead of Heinz. We even went the extra bit and replaced American Mayo with Kewpie mayo.

American condiments can stand to learn from global condiments...


Funny thing is in Vietnam you cannot really see Sriracha anywhere, because what’s the point, the local chili are cheaper and better, what is the point of importing from US.


I had assumed it's a general style of sauce though. I wouldn't expect the Vietnamese to import the American stuff, the sauce originated there and a Vietnamese immigrant brought it to the US. Is that not the case?


The sauce originated from Si Racha thailand. The original sauces are runnier, more like water than the american sriracha

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Si_Racha


Yeah, I guess. This style of chilli sauce is omnipresent here. But apparently the specific taste is from Thailand, I cannot really tell


Queue meeting

Cue meeting. We have to trie to do better.

https://grammarist.com/usage/cue-queue/


Cue meeting. We have to trie to do better.

Watch out for a heap of downvotes.


> "Queue meeting my now asian wife..."

wow, what was she before she was asian? (i kid!)

i like sriracha, but i don't really get the craze, personally preferring sambal oelek (garlic chili sauce) and tapatio more.


Love Tapatio. Sambel Oelek has no garlic, Tuong ot Toi does. I love them both.


> Queue meeting my now asian wife

What was she before she turned Asian?


> American condiments can stand to learn from global condiments

There's no such thing as American condiments, unless you pretend the US is homogeneous (which it isn't remotely close to being). Maybe you kinda sorta could have pigeonholed the US like that 40-50 years ago. I don't think it's possible to label-standardize as it pertains to food in the US any longer (as though there's American food at this point), given the diversity in the US now and the large variance between regions, states, cities.


> unless you pretend the US is homogeneous

The US is (sadly) extremely homogeneous because it's the same few dozen brands that are ever-present everywhere. You can be air-dropped blindfolded into a strip mall anywhere in the country and there will be no way to tell where you are since it'll be the exact same chain-food.

> Maybe you kinda sorta could have pigeonholed the US like that 40-50 years ago.

Strange comment because 40-50 years ago it was quite the opposite. A few nationwide-chains existed already, but every town had a local flavor and nearly all restaurants were local. It was fun to travel town to town experiencing the differences. Today it's the same everywhere. Very dull.


America has a fairly homogeneous culture though. There are chains of franchises everywhere and many monopolies in the supply chains. There are is also an independent element, but let's not pretend that the homogenized choice isn't extremely popular.


I am happy that we don't have Starbucks here. We have our own cafe chains. We don't need the us franchises to colonize the globe, we want local variety.


In terms of cuisine, America is not really homogeneous. I mean, even a relatively moderate change from LA to SF means a change from heavy Hispanic influence to more Asian. Or a change from SF to Portland and you get a lot more traditional 'American' (which really means Northeastern, since the South, Southwest, and California is very different foodwise), but with a heavy 'natural' emphasis.

Certainly, we have access to the same stuff, and many of us enjoy similar food, but I mean, Californians put avocado on everything, and you're not going to get Gumbo in Seattle.

America has a national food culture that kind of exists on top of the local one.


Your post reveals your eating habits. :) There are tons of chain restaurants that exist in both SF and LA, as well as nationally. There's no shortage of chain food options. McDonalds, Chipotle, Applebee's, Denny's, Pizza Hut, Chili's, and on and on. Your budget and palate may allow you the luxury of never eating in those kinds of places, but to say America is not really homogeneous because you choose not to frequent those kinds of places, ignores the reality of the many many chain restaurants who's appeal is the consistency of dining experience.


I agree that you can eat a homogeneous diet in america. On long drives, I often find myself at one of these places precisely for consistency.

However, most Americans do not cook the way fast food restaurants produce food. Also, chains differ. For example, in the south, there are often different proportions of chains. Most people eat their local diet.

I notice it all the time. Contrary to popular belief, these 'ethnic' places are not expensive or fancy. When I lived in California, I often ate at cheapo Mexican restaurants and cheap asian ones. Now that I live in Oregon, I often find myself at cheapo pub fare type places or food trucks serving Lebanese food.

Cuisines change a lot across the country. The fast food system is a homogeneous layer superimposed on top of that. Most people do not eat that everyday.


No, I’m pretty sure it’s getting worse. Anecdotally about 10 years ago when out-of-towners would ask where the closest Starbucks was, I’d proudly say there’s just the one at the convention center. Now my mid sized city is infested with them despite already having a few regional chains and dozens of independent shops.


And like Heinz Ketchup (although apparently it's a regional thing, Hunts is popular in some places and there are other versions), the statement "without a trademark" makes no sense. Like, neither company owns "Sriracha" or "Ketchup", but both definitely have trademarks on the other parts of their packaging and names.

And Heinz has a Sriracha Ketchup.

>. Once you factor in capacity planning and sourcing of quality chillies

I believe Huy Fong (as of 2016) and Tobasco (As of much earlier) run their own pepper farms. Tobasco takes those three years to age in vinegar. Siratcha does not have an aging process I am aware of, it goes straight through the commercial kitchen and into bottles.


Interestingly, when ATK did a tasting panel on Sriracha sauces, they slightly preferred the Kikkoman brand over the original:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBLvKe9vors


The don't change your recipe is certainly true. I remember Arnott's (Australia) has a disastrous backlash[1] when they tried to change the flavour of BBQ and Pizza Shapes.

[1]: https://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/arnotts-sha...


That’s very interesting background info.

I didn’t realize it take up to 3 years to make the sauce. It’s because they need to ferment some of the stuff?


Yes they need to sit in some barrels for aging. Similar to making of cheese like parmesan cheese. And they are still done in a very very old fashion way. ( For good reason ) The only process that is modern is quality control, packaging and bottling.


> It is basically like Heinz Ketchup.

Sriracha does seem to be northern California's version of ketchup - it is ubiquitous in restaurants. You can even get it at Starbucks, though I've never seen anyone add it to hot drinks.

I've seen it a lot in southern California as well, although various Mexican hot sauces are also popular, as is Tabasco.


> I've no idea of the history of say Tabasco

The Tabasco story is really interesting and it's essentially the Sriracha of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Tabasco is a private, family-owned company. They still grow all the seeds for its pepper crops on the same island they did in the 1800s [1]. Some family members were friends with Teddy Roosevelt [2]. I remember hearing, but cannot find a source right now, that Roosevelt like the sauce so much he had it included in military ration kits.

[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tabasco-hot-sauce-industry-60-m... [2] https://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org/Blog/Item/John%20Ave...


I've tried three or four competing Sriracha sauces from Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc, and to my taste all are much less enjoyable than Huy Fong.

It remains a differentiated product based on its core feature, taste.


I'm the same, all of the knock off's don't taste very good. Mostly it seems they have much more vinegar flavor which I don't like and is most of the time the main reason why I think they are inferior.


Why are those knock offs? Sriracha has been an Asian sauce for a long time before Huy Fong.


Because they aren't as good as the only US based sriracha maker I like. :)


Have you tried Sriraja Panich Sriracha?[1] It's one of the many sauces that claims to be the original Thai version. I liked the taste pretty well, just as much as the version manufactured here although they are different. It doesn't taste anything like Sriracha but I prefer Bachan's BBQ Sauce to Sriracha. [2]

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Sriraja-Panich-Sriracha-Chili-Sauce/d...

[2] https://bachans.com/


Yes, I have tried Sriraja Panich. To me it's a "better ketchup" but too sweet for most applications.

I might give Bachan's a try!


I like the Shark brand. I get it at a local Asian market, but you can also find it online [0].

[0] https://importfood.com/products/thai-sauces-condiments/item/...


Yes, to me this is a Coke like product. There are other sriracha sauces, just like there's other cola drinks, but so far there's only one Huy Fong Sriracha.


There’s something about competitors that tastes off to me. Almost like they picked the peppers too green?


True though it's in the substantial economic interest of house brand teams to make it good enough, so they will keep trying. TJ in particular is quite good at this.


Trader Joe's incredible ability to pull this off in general, and inability to replicate Huy Fong (at least, last I tried) is a big part of what convinces me that Huy Fong must be doing something really special in how they make their sauce.


I haven't done a side by side with it, but the red dragon sauce is damn good.

Maybe a bit different than Huy Fong, but it checks the box for me.

Side note, the main mechanism TJs and other store brands use to pull off this trick is to have the original manufacturers produce the product for them as a white label product.


I don't think the likable story is key. Until recently, most of the many millions people buying the sauce didn't know anything about its origin. It was just the cheap sauce alone in its category that you could find everywhere.


I'd never heard an origin story, either. The reason I'd heard of it, liked it, and buy it myself is because restaurants very conspicuously put it on their tables. If that wasn't coordinated marketing, then I guess it's luck. But was probably marketing. Even without a "sales team," someone had to be going to those restaurants and making deals with them.


And the irony is, the "you could find everywhere" bit is entirely down to the sales force he doesn't have (but his ten distribution partners do, and his Asian competitors didn't have in his target market for most of their existence)

I've got two different blends of Sriracha sauce in my cupboard, both from Thai companies and one of them even copying Tran's bottle style, but it wouldn't have occurred to me until reading this article that a particular Vietnamese-American brand was supposed to be the "authentic" one. He could have got the origin story out there to people who don't watch documentaries about hot sauce if he'd spent money on advertising though...


This is the first I've heard that there is a story behind it. I've got a bottle of it in the fridge right now. Perhaps some advertising wouldn't hurt.


You don't know the story but bought the product, so it's still working. Would knowing the story cause you to buy two?


Yep. They have a product people like and those people like it so much they do the marketing for them. It is the dream of any company to not have to do traditional marketing and advertising.

And what more would I possibly want from their product? It is a good product at a reasonable price. People are going to go with what they like.

All you have to do at this point is not mess that up. Don’t try to increase profit margins by raising prices or changing the formula. And don’t do anything that is going to lower brand recognition.

The biggest risk to Heinz ketchup, for example, is their premium price. Restaurant owners often go with a different ketchup because Heinz costs significantly more. Obviously Kraft-Heinz has determined that they can make more money this way and since they have strong brand recognition it probably won’t harm them.


  If a company tried to sell a more expensive premium product in flashier packaging - then it would feel inauthentic. What are you paying more for?
Just stamp it artisan, hand-made, organic, gluten-free, whatever, quadruple the price and buy some Instagram ads.


People try that with ketchup all the time. It barely moves the needle. Sriracha, like Ketchup, is a 'cheap' product at this point. If people are going to spend 4 times as much they want something fancier.


That works, but you will have a hard time selling it at scale.


Just say small batch


They've done this, and the non-Huy Fong brands just aren't as good in an all-purpose hot sauce way.

Valentina black label is better for some things, though. It's not marketed as a sriracha sauce, just a Mexican hot sauce.


Sauce and condiment companies that establish a franchise tend to be enormously profitable in general (see also pre-KHC Heinz or Lee Kum Kee). The product is very cheap to make, and as you note a bottle of sauce is pretty inexpensive (and contributes almost nothing to the cost structure of a full meal) so customers aren’t all that price-sensitive. These facts are a recipe for fat margins and high ROIC.


> I've no idea of the history of ... Tabasco

Aside, but if you ever find yourself in or near southern Louisiana, the Tabasco headquarters at Avery Island is actually a pretty fun outing. Lots of tasting (pre covid anyway), a self-guided factory tour, and some cool nature.


They have essentially an open air aviary.


One thing that helped is it became the standard in pretty much every Pho restaurant I've ever been to. I don't know if that was intentional or not, but if definitely makes any alternative brand seem inauthentic.


> If a company tried to sell a more expensive premium product in flashier packaging - then it would feel inauthentic. What are you paying more for?

My grocery store has a half dozen Sriracha sauces. Some I like less, some I like more. They’re all pretty different in flavor.


If you're interested in the Tabasco story check this out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xnaj9ULhwqU I found it interesting.


There is a book about the history of Tabasco -https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B000W9393O/


The part that strikes me is that they still have the same 10 distributors since the 80's.

The "local Chinese restaurant" is a much more franchised thing than most people are aware of, and those 10 distributors meant it already ended up throughout the country and allowed everyone to try it for free. This is likely the secret to it's success.

The only similar product I can think of is Mountain Dew Baja Blast. Though it did get some advertising, by automatically being available in every Taco Bell it became a minor craze. It's not an easily reproducible concept though.


>The "local Chinese restaurant" is a much more franchised thing than most people are aware of

This is interesting (but also makes sense) -- do you happen to have an article?


There's a great documentary on this -- http://www.thesearchforgeneraltso.com/

There are immigrant associations that will take recent Chinese immigrants, train them to cook the US staples, help them find a new "territory", and finance the restaurant. It's really fascinating.


I don’t think the “franchise” is literal in terms of a royalty — it’s just that the vast majority of Chinese restaurants order their supplies from the same few distributors yielding largely similar results. It’s why you pretty much know what you’re getting when you go to a new Chinese restaurant in a way that you don’t at a new Italian restaurant.


As an expat who lives in China and loves Chinese food, it makes me incredibly sad that in the Western world Chinese food is basically greasy bland cheap garbage generally inspired by 19th century Cantonese immigration (chop suey, fried rice, and various stir frys, plus uniquely American inventions like orange chicken or fortune cookies). What happened to the amazing food of Taiwan, Hunan, Sichuan, Shaanxi? There's so much better Chinese food than what you'll find at your average American Chinese restaurant.

It's getting a bit better but there's still a long way to go even in the cities that have more Chinese options (NYC, west coast cities)


Sichuan seems pretty popular in the USA these days.

In the medium-sized city where I live, there is a standard American Chinese place by a university which is frankly not very good even for American Chinese food, but was owned by people from sichuan and would make off menu sichuan dishes for immigrant students. But they noticed non-immigrant Americans ordering them too, and wisely noticed the general trend going on, and the same owners up a different place a few miles away with actual sichuan food and prices 2x+ higher, which has been very successful. :)

In Philadelphia there's also the popular Han Dynasty chain of sichuan places.

I'd imagine even the places with food closer to "actual" sichuan food, if they are popular with non-Chinese people, have "Americanized" to some extent. I couldn't say as they are my only exposure to it! But I know sometimes I get something where the flavors/textures are just TOO different than what I'm used to, and I just don't like it!


what you're witness isn't actually Chinese food it's the melting pot of multiculturalism in action. Just like curry in UK, General Tso's chicken is now part of the US identity. New comers will bring new forks but the old dare I say classics are here to stay.


> There's so much better Chinese food than what you'll find at your average American Chinese restaurant.

One of the reasons I love living in Toronto: its many ethnic neighbourhoods from just about every nationality on earth e.g. Hungarian, Vietnamese, Iranian, Jamaican. Perhaps only matched by NYC, their local restaurants are 100% authentic to the point of importing fresh ingredients almost daily.


why is it sad that most of the chinese restaurants in america cater to american tastes? american style chinese is a valid food cuisine, and lots of people like that. if you want authentic food those retaurants exist as well. are the "american cuisine" restaurants in china exact reproductions of american food?


>why is it sad that most of the chinese restaurants in america cater to american tastes?

Their heavy reliance on immigrants. Imagine moving to another country eager to start a restaurant featuring the food you've spent years cooking only to show up and be told you need to learn all their recipes and call it American cuisine.


Do you have any tips on getting real Chinese food in America. I was planning on living in Asia later this year, but it doesn't look like the pandemic will be under control by then


That's a pretty broad question, especially if you live in an area without an established Chinatown. If you do, it should be easy enough to go there and scope it out. As far as restaurants go, don't be afraid to ask the servers about this. You could also seek out specific dishes. I like to look for a place that has dry friend green beans (or gan bian si ji dou), chongqing chicken, three cup chicken, congee, dandan noodles or mapo tofu on the menu. Also, don't just look for a "Chinese restaurant", look for a "dim sum restaurant", a "hand drawn noodle restaurant" or a "Sichuan restaurant", etc.

If you can't find a decent restaurant, you could try to make stuff on your own. Search foursquare for "Asian supermarket", it will likely carry real Chinese ingredients even if it is primarily Vietnamese or Korean. As far as what to cook, I think https://omnivorescookbook.com/ always comes up with something pretty good. I also swear by the Mission Chinese cookbook. While some of those recipes aren't exactly authentic, they are close enough (and the author explains the ways they differ, like they have a recipe for kung pao pastrami - you're not going to find pastrami in China, but the kung pao part is pretty close).

China is also a huge place that has many regional variations. Just like BBQ in Texas is different from BBQ in Eastern North Carolina, it's hard to say what is or isn't authentic in terms of Chinese cuisine, or what is authentic to a particular regions, etc. I'm sure they're arguing about it over there, too.


Go to a homey, family-owned Chinese restaurant when they are not busy. Some have a separate menu for more authentic cooking; you can ask about that and if not, just tell them you want to try authentic regional dishes. I have had good luck with this even in the midwest. Make sure to tell them how adventurous you are - will you eat feet, intestines, head-on fish etc.


Just talk to first generation Chinese immigrants. I have to say American Chinese food and authentic Chinese food are belong to different categories and serve different sets of people.


Have you found a place for good Hainanese Chicken Rice in the US? Or good Taiwanese?


NYC (+ metro area) at least has a number of places doing those things.

I'm not exactly qualified to judge their authenticity (although I've been taken by a Taiwanese acquaintance to more than one in the past - no names, sorry), but a lot of them are in immigrant communities where the primary customers seem to be people of those ethnic backgrounds, not "average Americans".


I came across a web site that looked like it was written in Geocities-style, it was a chinese food distributor and they basically sold a chinese restaurant in a box kit. All the food to make the menu, all the accessories like boxes and fortune cookies...


Same deal with Patak's sauces in Indian restaurants in the UK nowadays, unfortunately.


We have those sauces in jars available on the shelf at my local grocer (Safeway, Bay Area, US). Bastardized or not, they are tasty.


Apparently it's the pastes which are used:

https://www.theasiancookshop.co.uk/bulk-pataks-balti-curry-p...

It's a shame, because a lot of the dishes have lost a lot of their subtlety and especially regional variation.


Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. They are a bit bland and more salty as compared with properly done from-scratch versions of the sauces, marinades, and sautés, but they're not too bad.



Another good one, on the fruit/veg supply side of things: https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-fruits-and-veggies-are-so-c...



wow, what a fascinating article!


Also discussed at the time!

Why Fruits and Veggies Are So Cheap in Chinatown - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11981063 - June 2016 (237 comments)


Discussed at the time!

The Kitchen Network: America’s Underground Chinese Restaurant Workers - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8425246 - Oct 2014 (39 comments)


I don't, I read about it nearly twenty years ago and my attempts at searching for it again can't get past the actual franchises like Panda Express.

Parts of it are incredibly obvious though, things like interior design, the Chinese Zodiac place mats, fortune cookies and Sriracha.


Jennifer 8. Lee wrote a book about it: http://fortunecookiechronicles.com


I've always presumed as much. Chinese restaurants, in Portugal at least, are practically indistinguishable from one another.


I see it as a table condiment in many mainstream restaurants, these days.


according the same thread, they also had a sole jalepeno supplier all the way up until 2017 when "the partners had a falling out. Huy Fong now sources from 3 suppliers."


"No trademark" is misleading. They have trademarks. Without them I expect exact clones would take their sales. The bottle and logo are quite distinctive and trademarked. The thing they didn't trademark is the name Sriracha.


Also the thread mentioned they've protected the squeeze bottle with green cap design which I think only applies to the US. For instance in Europe most Asia stores stock 'goose brand' sriracha which apart from the animal look almost identical[1]. Got burned by that myself a while ago when the whole sriracha craze started online and I mistakenly bought a bottle of the goose brand stuff.

[1] https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61aZqqvP7WL...


Yes, here in Germany I only have seen the "goose" branded sriracha sauce. I quite like it, but of course, I don't know what I might be missing out.


Fellow German here who gets angry about the Flying Goose brand whenever I go into an Asian store: It’s not the same. Huy Fong Foods is much better and has much fewer additives.


> has much fewer additives.

Goose:

chili 61%, sugar syrup, salt, garlic, water, acids: E260, E330, monosodium glutamate (E621), xanthan gum E415, potassium sorbate (E202).

Huy Fong:

Chili, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar, potassium sorbate (E202), sodium bisulfite (E222), and xanthan gum (E415)

Seems very similar, distilled vinegar is E260, and E330 is citric acid.


Fair enough. The important difference is the glutamate, though.


The goose brand is less spicy and is WAY sweeter. I had my family in the states send me some of the Huy Fong stuff because I couldn't stand the sweetness of the goose brand.


Tastes the same to me. If at all the goose brand is slightly less spicy by default. Thanks to covid did not have the chance to do a cross check lately...


I'm ok with the Goose too. The green capped, the red capped I can tolerate, but it can be a bit much for me. Recently tried a so called 'A-One' with extra garlic(pink capped, 500ml) and it has been so so. Won't buy again.


American living in the UK here, try buying the huy fong brand on Amazon and see if you like it. I think it's far superior.


It seems to be illegal in the EU+UK because it contains E222: citation: https://www.hot-headz.com/huy-fong-sriracha-chilli-sauce

I'm not saying you can't buy it on Amazon and I don't know enough about nutrition to know why E222 was banned.


Here in Finland I can buy proper Huy Fong Sriracha in the grocery store. A few different flavors and types, too.

Edit: I am wrong on the internet. I just checked my bottle in the fridge and it is GoTan [1] Sriracha, from the Netherlands. With a green cap, too. I feel kinda ripped off, tbh.

[1] https://www.go-tan.com


Green cap Sriracha in India means it has Mayo. Is it the same for you?


No.

The green cap meant that beautiful Huy Fong Sriracha, which has no mayo, but it's so distinctive that other manufacturers copied it, presumably to fool gullible people like myself


Are you sure it's illegal in the EU? Pretty much any wine sold adds sulfites to stop the fermentation process. AFAIK all that's required is that they're labelled as containing sulfites.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfite_food_and_beverage_addi...


The way it works is that they impose a default ban, and then you can apply for an exemption for your specific product category. Wine has an exemption, sauces and condiments do not. Why the EU would quickly make sure wine got an exemption and wasn't impacted in any way, and not do the same for hot sauces is a mystery for the ages.


France, I would assume.


You can add Spain and Italy trailing behind.


It's not in Germany. I can buy it at my local Asian grocery.


It's not


Wow I never realized the "goose" one is the knock off.



I thought that was the one!! What's the real thing like then?


"Sriracha" couldn't be trademarked because it is the name of the sauce. It's like someone trying to trademark "Kansas City style Barbeque Sauce" -- can't be done.


You'd think so, but it happens all the times in the US, with American firms trademarking names of thinks from other languages.


Much like ugg boots are the name of the boots. Oh wait. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-05/trademark-battle-for-...


Apparently they can spell it in all uppercase and then it can be trademarked. Thinking of REALTOR®... which is as descriptive as it gets.


Well Realtor wasn’t the name of the job before that brand. They were called estate agents.


I don't know much about trademark but I know of this company called Apple. Would Apple be blocked from trademarking it's name if it sold actual Apples instead of computers?


> Would Apple be blocked from trademarking it's name if it sold actual Apples instead of computers?

Yes. In the US, if Apple sold apples, its name would be classified as descriptive and they would not have any exclusive right to that mark when selling apples. Other companies could also label their apples with "apple" and Apple could not stop them.


This is also why kiwifruit are marketed as Zespri etc.


Apple spent years in court arguing with Apple music


This is true, but the situation was Apple (the computer company) moved into the music business with iTunes; Apple (the record company) was already long established. Apple (the record company) was the plaintiff trying to block Apple (the computer company).

My (limited) knowledge is solely of US law, but different companies with the same trademark can coexist in different industries, e.g. Delta (the airline) and Delta (the faucet company).


It happened twice actually. Apple (the record company) sued Apple (the computer company) back in the 80's. The judgement then was that the computer company could keep using their name so long as they never enter the music business. Then they released iPod & iTunes, and got sued again for breach of their court-mediated agreement. The record company won a settlement IIRC.


and Delta, the power supply company


And Delta Dental, the dental insurance provider.


Presumably against Apple Records?


Good question, I'm always confused about trademark and copyright laws.


I'm not sure about America, but in Europe there are many imitations that also use the Sriracha name, similar looking bottle, etc.


Yeah, I bought one thinking it would be more or less the same. But surprisingly very far off. The original is like Heinz is to ketchup.


Heinz ketchup is pretty bad :D


All ketchup is actually pretty bad. (Controversial opinion, European here who'll pick aioli over it any day)


You are not alone!


yep, those are over here too, and they're all underwhelming. I don't think I've actively purchased any, but somehow I've sampled many of them. Maybe at restaurants that cut corners, maybe at friends houses. All were subpar in my tastes.


This is so ironic. I guess European brand and origin protectionism only applies to European brands?


Only those with trade deals and registered GI in place obviously. I wouldn't mind if name sriracha would be some guarantee for origin and recipe, but alas, Thailand would of course need to demand that first.

Note: I don't know much about sriracha so no idea if Thai people consider it to be a traditional local stuff or not.


Why would Thailand need to demand that when it is a California invention?

To be clear, there is no “Sriracha” sauce in Thailand. At best there is a spicy pepper and vinegar blend which some cuisine uses, but it’s nothing like the California-made Sriracha sauce, and it is not called Sriracha (or Sri Racha) AFAIK.

Where I live, a lot of SE Asian restaurants will give the original red dipping sauce for certain dishes which it is meant for, and it is nothing like Sriracha. Different pepper, different color, way sweeter, very little acidity.

Sriracha as you know it is a Los Angeles invention by an intrepid culinary entrepreneur. It resembles actual Thai sauce about as much as Kraft “American cheese” [sic] does a good English cheddar. (Although unlike this comparison, Sriracha arguably improved on the original.)


Because the original sriracha sauce comes from Thailand: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sriracha

> It resembles actual Thai sauce about as much as Kraft “American cheese” [sic] does a good English cheddar. (Although unlike this comparison, Sriracha arguably improved on the original.)

Thai people hate the americanized version of sriracha, so I guess your comparison is right that Huy Fong Foods sriracha is like the Kraft “American cheese”.


If it isn't even made with the same ingredients, how can it be related by anything but name?

I've traveled to Thailand quite a few times and AFAIK the sauce is not called "Sri Racha" there. The American sauce is just named after a town from a region that is known for spicy sauces generally. So they don't even share a name.


I thought my disclaimer made it clear that I'm no authority in sriracha topics and don't know who, if anyone, has a credible claim on it.


It think it's like Döner Kebap. Created by turkish emigrants in exile, unknown in Turkey up to that point in time, then re-imported back there because it was trendy.


In the thread:

> 9/ Interestingly, Tran never trademarked "Sriracha" (he did trademark the green cap and rooster, though).


perhaps because it is the name of the style of Thai chili sauce he is making, named after the Thai town.


The thread is fine, but the HN headline is editorialized in a misleading way.


OK, we've taken the trademark out of the title above. Now someone else will point out how they had a sales team and bought ads...


Trademark treats this as a crime against the original producer. Pretending to be that producer to fool the consumer into buying your product is a crime against the buyer known as fraud. IANAL and I don't know whether in a legal environment with trademark that form of fraud is recognized as such, but it should be and I think it would be a superior solution to the problem trademark is meant to solve.


It doesn't seem to apply in this particular case, but it's also important to note that having a trademark is different from having a registered trademark.


No comments yet pointing out what I think is the important point: Siracha is the established brand.

If anyone wants to compete with Siracha they would be best served by using marketing. That Siracha gets to skip spending on marketing after having developed a green field market just speaks to their competitive moat. They produce a high quality product at reasonable prices, if anything there isn't room to compete if not on marketing.


They've developed channel power, probably not on the same level as Coke, but something like that.

Once you have your place 'in the system' etc. you have incredible leverage.

The chocolate bars at my convenience store are the same, boring 20 variations for my entire life. They are not 'the best products' - they are just the products that will work through the system. It'd take a decade of consumer awareness to put something on par with 'Coffee Crisp' and then you have to get all of the gears of distribution to go along with it.

So what we end up up with in chocolate - and any number of other goods - is kind of a 'channel equilibrium' where products establish channel dominance (which requires scale), and then inch forward ever so slightly.

To see a 'new' product get to that level ... take a look at 'Swiffer' (cleaner) - basically, that's an institutional effort by P&G to 'disrupt' their own categories a bit and they've spent zillions marketing that. It's a trivial little thing, not much in the way of innovation, but when were talking consumer products at that scale, it never was about 'innovation'.

These companies do buy brands and scale them but even then brands meet their limit. 'Ben and Jerries' they can probably 10-50x in size ... but at that price point they can only go so far with the category. Odwalla ... sadly had to shut down.


This makes me think about the explosion in ice cream startups in the 2010s (the second time it happened after the 1980s). Ice cream is particularly hard to distribute but several companies made the cut and found themselves in nationwide supermarket aisles. I think there's always a consumer appetite to try the next new thing. I don't buy the idea that there's a moat around any of it.


>No comments yet pointing out what I think is the important point: Siracha is the established brand

In 2021 it is. They got to this place without marketing and by entering an already packed condiment market. Tabasco sauce had already been around for a century before they even started.


>Tabasco sauce had already been around for a century before they even started.

Tabasco and Sriracha are about as similar are ketchup and mustard.


I'd consider them like mustard and brown mustard, some broad differences but ultimately both versions of the same concept.


Their concepts are not the same.


At most, they use a different pepper as a their main ingredient. That's the same concept, broadly speaking "hot sauce."


Like I said, this is like saying ketchup and mustard are the same.

I'm sorry if you can't appreciate the difference between the two but saying that the main thing different between them is the pepper is ludicrous as is saying they're meant for the same kinds of culinary use.


A quick search shows that every ingredient in Tabasco is in Sriracha, with Sriracha also having sugar, garlic, and some preservatives.

I don't care for either, having eaten far too much spicy food to taste anything but vinegar in either, but acting like there's a world of difference between them is just silly. If at any point you wanted hot sauce, either one would do despite your preferences.


Comparing foods and saying they’re the same thing if they’re made from the same ingredients only proves my point that you don’t know what you’re talking about.


Right, your point that two hot sauces aren't similar, because they just aren't. Me pointing out their heavy similarities really drives home how un-similar they really are. That's just silly.


Lol, if your mouth cannot detect the difference in consistency, taste, texture, etc, then you are not qualified to speak on their differences.

Trying to put liquid tabasco in pho would be beyond disgusting. But you go on and think that they're interchangeable.


Your complaint is that you think putting liquid into soup would make it disgusting? I did not expect that.

And similar does not mean identical, I'm fully aware there are differences.


> Your complaint is that you think putting liquid into soup would make it disgusting?

Yes, putting Tabasco into pho soup is disgusting. Go try it and see what happens.

> I did not expect that.

Like I said, you clearly do not know what you're talking about. Your culinary experience appears to be limited.

> And similar does not mean identical, I'm fully aware there are differences.

Clearly you are not. This entire time, I've been arguing that they do not occupy the same niche in the world of condiments and you've been telling me that I am wrong.


>Clearly you are not

My first reply to you says they have broad differences.


You said

> I'd consider them like mustard and brown mustard, some broad differences but ultimately both versions of the same concept.

Anywhere you use mustard, you could also substitute brown mustard and vice versa.

This is not true for Sriracha and Tabasco.


Yes, first-mover advantage per category, i.e., Pebble. There is also last-mover advantage, i.e., Apple Watch. If you get the FMA, you have to go big ASAP and continue to dominate.


Interestingly, the Huy Fong version of sriracha is no longer available in Finland due to it containing certain sulfites that are not allowed in spice sauces.[1] There are several competing sauces available, though. I remember wondering why it had disappeared from the shelves and only finding this one news article about it.

[1] https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11251204 (in Finnish)


Sulfites give me head aches


This reminds me a Chinese chili sauce brand called Lao Gan Ma. [1] The founder is a woman, who started the business as a road side shop selling hand made chili sauce. Now it sales more than half a billion dollars per year.

They do not run advertisement too. The founder also insisted on some distinguished principles such as not taking any debt, not own supplier money, and not getting listed in stock market.

The sauce is often named as a necessity for Chinese studying or working aboard. You can simply mix it with rice or noddles and have a delicious meal.

If you like spicy Chinese food, you should give it a try.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lao_Gan_Ma


Haa, I eat this stuff almost daily. I have four jars of it in my fridge. It's awesome.

I don't know if I'd classify it as spicy, though my taste buds may also just be very dead.


I love Lao Gan Ma, but was devastated to learn that it has a non-trivial amount of trans fats in it (it's right on the nutrition label). Now I need to find an alternative.


I'm a pretty big fan of Boon chili oil. It's similar but not the same, and comparatively much healthier.


Funny enough, I can't stand Lao Gan Ma, there's a subtle taste to it that I find gross. I can't taste that flavor every time I use it, but if if I put it on dumplings it's there. However, I love some of the alternative versions. The best article I've seen on alternatives is below. I love Chile Crunch, I eat it on everything, it's a mash up of Asian and Mexican styles.

https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/the-best-chile-crisp-...


And despite it not tasting like the original Thai Sriracha sauce.

Edit: the Thai version is thinner, tangier and a toucher sweeter, and made from spur chillies, not jalapeños. [1] [2] [3]

[1] https://shesimmers.com/2010/03/homemade-sriracha-how-to-make...

[2] https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/01/16/681944292/in...

[3] https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/what-is-sriracha-sauce

Not saying the Tran sauce is bad; just different.


Despite? Because!

The US has a different flavor culture than SE Asia (though Huy Fong did get its start selling to SE Asian immigrants in the US).

I've tried more "authentic" Srirachas and don't like them at all (taste like cheap sweet ketchup to me). I eat Huy Fong almost daily (I have no Asian heritage).


It surprised me just how sweet authentic Thai cuisine is. Usually, American food is sweeter than its origins. In the case of Thai food, Americans may actually have toned down the sweetness a bit.


Thai food is an interesting case. The Thai government has recognized that food is great at breaking down cultural barriers, and they've gone to great lengths to promote it. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17770707


The Thai version, at least the one available in supermarkets here, has too much of a distinct garlicky taste for my taste buds.

It really is a matter of taste I suppose.


I accidentally bought the brand that is more common in Britain (Flying Goose). It wasn't as spicy as I expected so I put a fair dose in my tortilla and now I can't even think about it without feeling nauseous because it was way too salty and garlicky. The British variant apparently has 5x the amount of salt, is less spicy, and tastes strongly of garlic. And yet it uses the exact same visual design of the bottle, pretending to be the same thing.


If you want the spicier version of Flying Goose you need to buy the bottles with the red cap.


What does "too much of a distinct garlicky taste" mean? How can you possibly have too much garlic?


Not everybody likes the same foods or flavors as you, and that's okay.


I love garlic, the more the better.

The problem with the Flying Goose sauce (yeah, that's the one) is that the taste is more like garlic powder, which I think tastes disgusting.

BTW: I think it's a fair question, so I really don't get the downvotes.


Try a spoonful of toum.


Happily.


I much prefer the flavor of the Sriraja Panich brand you find in the Asian markets. But the squeeze-bottle packaging/pour of the Huy Fong stuff is definitely more convenient than the glass ketchup bottle style package Sriraja Panich comes in over here. I've never seen it in a squeeze bottle package like that second article shows.


There was a long piece on the beginnings of Sriracha in LA (I cannot find it because there are many), but what stood out to me specifically was it talking about how "back home" the American Sriracha was the shit.


Team Shark Brand here. It's sweeter and spicier, though I do wish it came in a bottle smaller than 750ml...


I just always called it rooster sauce and avoided this whole debate.


I don't see how it's despite of that. Original doesn't always mean better.


To put it in clearer terms, this is like selling a "Chicago-style pizza" but putting cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. This new version can be successful, but it's still not the original Chicago-style pizza.


You mean that casserole :-)

https://youtube.com/watch?v=jCgYMFtxUUw


You can always tell when someone's never eaten it when they describe it as a casserole or lasagne. There's no way you could eat it and describe it that way.

Also, a minority of "Chicago style" pizza is deep dish.


[EDIT:] It's amusing that Chicago people are doing this same "we are so misunderstood by the people who pay attention to our marketing" thing seen elsewhere ITT from Europeans. Is it possible for an American city to succeed in this maneuver, or is it a Europe-only thing?

All Chicago-style pizzas, fat or thin, are strictly inferior to St Louis-style pizza.


I haven't tried St. Louis style. I'd eat it. It's cut properly, at least.


Is the sauce that I get in every Asian restaurant not the same Sriracha?

edit: clicked on the link, it seems to be that one, I think?


Sri Racha is a town in Thailand, Sriracha sauce is named after that town and is ostensibly an attempt to replicate the sauce that originated from there - apparently it misses the mark a bit in terms of authenticity, but obviously it is still pretty great.


I don't think that's accurate

David Tran is not from Sri Racha or Thailand, he's a Chinese-Vietnamese refugee/immigrant to America Sri Racha wasn't his first hot sauce just the most successful. He was trying to make hot sauces especially aimed at local asian restaurants not to perfectly replicate an authentic Thai recipe he was inspired by. It doesn't miss the mark because it wasn't aiming for it

https://www.bangkokpost.com/print/640796/

> “I considered Sriracha a Thai sauce when I made my version,” Mr Tran explained in an email. “There were already Srirachas in the market when I started making my style. I took the original Sriracha and made it enjoyable to my taste.”


The popular Huy Fong Foods product (green cap, roster on bottle) uses red jalapenos as it's primary pepper.

Of course jalapenos are grown in Thailand today, but I'd wager the original sauce used a different, more local pepper.


> Of course jalapenos are grown in Thailand today, but I'd wager the original sauce used a different, more local pepper.

The entire genus of capsicums are new world plants, and would have been unknown prior to the Columbian exchange. The family includes tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers, which are all native to South America. There is no "local" pepper in Thailand- all of it was imported.

edit: there's black pepper and long pepper, but that's... not the same thing.


There's still cultivars that have been grown for hundreds of years over there, so I would consider them 'local', just not native.

On a side note, there's a bunch of articles claiming peppers have been used in East Asia before the Columbian exchange. Like this one[1] for example. These usually have a bit of a nationalist bend since the implication is that the local chili heavy cuisine has been unchanged for millennia. It's an interesting thought experiment at least.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S235261811...!


From the article:

> The recent research states that gochu appeared on the earth billions of years ago [4], and might have been transferred by the birds that ate them

That seems like a rather incredible claim, and I imagine it’s probably untrue.


Yeah, and almost certainly not true.

> These usually have a bit of a nationalist bend since the implication is that the local chili heavy cuisine has been unchanged for millennia.

Why do we have the need to claim that our cultures have been unchanged for millenia? Almost none have, human culture is remarkably adaptive and changing, and every time two cultures meet they change each other, adopt each others food and music etc -- and why wouldn't they?

These days almost all humans/cultures are insisting that their "authentic" culture is unchanged for millenia though. I don't know if it's always been that way (see what I did there haha). I think it's actually a very right-wing sort of thing, harkening back to an imaginary "authentic" past when things were, uh, great.

It's effecting our very understanding of culture, we all think that "real" culture is unchanging forever -- which is not how humans work at all! Or that in some distant past, all culture existed entirely silo'd without interacting or influencing each other, merging with each other and splitting off from each other -- also not how hardly any actually existing human populations have existed through time!


My favorite is when people claim their culture has never changed out of one side of their mouth, and then whine about the new music their kids listen to out of the other.


If you can't consider Chillies local for Asian food then we can't consider tomatoes authentic Italian food either, but then at that point what exactly are you even talking about?


Tomatoes are associated with Italy, but they are not a traditional Italian ingredient. The plant was introduced from Americas in mid-1500's, and became a staple only during the 1700's.

0: https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/noodles/2018/07/03/history-of...


What is your cutoff in terms of time for what is traditional or not?

I would wager that 300+ years is more than enough for any custom to be qualified as traditional.


According to most Europeans I talk to, the cutoff is whatever makes European culture authentic, and American culture shallow. My favorite conversation was between myself, an Austrian, my best friend from China, and a friend from Tyre:

> Austrian: America doesn’t have a culture — it’s only really been around for a few hundred years: my family has chairs older than that! We date back to the 1100s!

> (Best friend from China): my village’s local temple (the core) was more than 500 years old in the 1100s; your culture is still getting started!

> (Friend from Tyre): my house is in the new part of the city built by Alexander in 330 … BC. The old city was established further back in the past from the new city, than the new city is from now. Until your people have lived in a place for at least 2000 years, how can you really say you “own” it?

Then we got a beer & watched “Dancing With the Stars”.


The interesting thing about China now is that they have been actively destroying their remnants of ancient culture to try to speed economic development.

As a consequence their culture is converging somewhat towards the cultural revolution which is only about 70 years old. So they are a young political culture in that regards, and politics dominates due to its military force.


Something that would have been known as age-old by the time the enlightenment started to set in. So that's what, 1300's as the cutoff? 300 years is barely enough to establish a town pub.

For the record, I'm a Finn. By my own definition, there are maybe only three traditional Finnish foods that have survived that long. Carelian stew, särä, and maybe robber's roast (clay-pit mutton).

Whereas something like wine leaf rolls from Greece, Turkey and Lebanon - now those can be properly traditional.


Many other things that I consider integral parts of Italian culture are not much older.


How old does something have to be in order to be "tradition"?

The idea that before some certain point a culture was "frozen" is usually ahistorical. Certainly true for cultures of the Italian penninsula, on the Mediteranean providing easy access to wide swaths of land and peoples, part of a former empire that spanned continents.


How old does something have to be in order to be "tradition"?

Easy: as soon as the people who adopted it into the current form are dead and the adoption forgotten.

My grandmother's cherry island cake was almost certainly copied off the back of a package sometime in the 1920s or 30s; maybe it's an adaptation of a German or Hungarian recipe. Now it's a tradition in my family.


That's a bit ridiculous. 300 years is not old enough to be considered “traditional“?


I actually don't remember eating that many tomatoes last time I was in Italy. I did go to the North, which has a bit more butter eater influence, but even in Rome there weren't that many tomatoes. Olives, cheeses, cured meats abound, but not tomatoes.


I live in South America and buy premium Italian tomatoes for my pizza sauce because they’re that good.


There is a big difference between imported 300 years ago and imported 30 years ago. Especially for capsicums which can be adopted in nearly every climate (for some only indoors, but still). Many countries and regions have their own special peppers and it became an integral part of the culture (the same for potatoes, tomatoes etc).

As to the history of chilli in Asia, there is a very good book The Chile Pepper in China - A Cultural Biography, worth reading http://cup.columbia.edu/book/the-chile-pepper-in-china/97802...


In Thai, chilli peppers are called "phrik" and black pepper is "phrik Thai"[1] so even the common name acknowledges that the former is not indigenous.

[1] at least I think so, my Thai is quite bad.


You're correct.


Funnily enough, black pepper is called Thai pepper in Thai, it being the native kind of pepper (พริกไทย).


I remember watching some video few years ago about how due to some reason, they had to change the peppers or the soil it was grown on or something (I apologize if this is my faulty memory, I could be totally wrong). Are the red jalapeños which Huy Fong Foods brand uses any different from the thai version in terms of taste?


That was my understanding too, maybe I saw the same source. Huy Fong was very particular about the source of their peppers, they were constrained for a while by not being able to get enough of the ones that met their standard.


Is it really that specific?

We have many "<town/village> <foodname>" here, and basiclly every grandma in that town/village, has a slighty different recipe, with a slightly different "secret ingredient" or even with major changes (think chilli vs texas chilli)


Even though the origin of Sri Racha sauce is debated (even in Thailand), it was the recipe used by a small shop named "Sriraja Panich" that became known as the Sri Racha sauce in Thailand. The popularity of Sriraja Panich's recipe inspired other brands in Thailand to make a sauce with similar ingredients and taste. Only after then it became known as a type of a sauce.

Today, even though every sauce brand in Thailand has started producing a Sri Racha-type sauce, many Thais still only considered Sriraja Panich's sauce to be the authentic one.


It's a California fusion food which has spread world-wide. Sibling comment is incorrect; it is at most "inspired by" the original Thai sauce. It's made with the California-native Jalapeño ingredients you might expect in a Mexican restaurant, not South East Asian cuisine.


Nope.

The style has been around for a long time and other SEAsian countries have their brands.

I used to consume a lot of a different brand when I was a kid and always thought it was funny when this particular brand caught on in western countries. I never thought it was very good.


I just want to be clear I’m not telling anyone what to like. You like what you like. I’m just surprised this is the one that became popular. Use the sauce you want!


It's initial popularity was apparently through SE asian "ethnic" restaurants catering to immigrants too, it seems like?

But yeah, in the end we like what we like -- I'm a non-immigrant American, I definitely liked the huy fong one the first time I tried it (in the mid-90s?), and still do, and I'm not ashamed regardless of how "authentic" it is. :)


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