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NYC's Restaurants Sweating Sriracha Hot Sauce Shortage

By Heidi Patalano | December 18, 2013 10:16am
 Local businesses prepare for a possible Sriracha shortage.
Sriracha Shortage in NYC
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HELL'S KITCHEN — The news of a shortage of Huy Fong Foods "rooster" Sriracha sauce filled The Windsor's executive chef Kristine Mana-ay with panic.

“One of my friends told me about it and I was like, ‘Oh no! Why? Oh my God! I'm gonna die!’” said Mana-ay, who won the New York City Wingfest in October 2013 for her Sriracha-Honey wings and goes through two dozen 28-ounce bottles of the sweet-hot stuff every week.

The hot sauce maker closed its plant last week, and will remain closed through mid-January after California's Health Department responded to a number of complaints lodged against its Irwindale, Calif., factory. Once health department inspectors give the factory a green-light, it can resume production of the beloved rooster sauce.

But in the meantime, Sriracha-addicted restaurants and stores in the city are doing everything possible to weather the shutdown.

“We’ve stocked up since a couple of weeks ago, when we got word of a possible impending shortage,” said Jennifer Saesue, the general manager of OBAO Hell's Kitchen. “Luckily, at this point, we do not need to alter any of our dishes.”

OBAO has several special dishes that feature the spicy, smoky red sauce, but largely serves it as a condiment on the side.

Saesue said that her restaurant has enough of the Sriracha sauce to last three months — longer than the shipping freeze is expected to last.

In addition, other Sriracha producers — including one based here in New York City — are taking advantage of the Huy Fong Foods outage to boost their own popularity.

“You don’t wish this on anyone and I think that [Huy Fong Foods founder David Tran] is in a very difficult position right now. But certainly it’s opened doors for us and we expect that to continue,” Lisa Kartzman, spokeswoman for Chelsea-based Roland Foods, which makes its own version of the sauce.

Kartzman's company, which provides hundreds of products to local grocery stores, has been advertising its Sriracha sauce more heavily in the last few weeks.

“We’re going out and reminding our customers that we’ve got Sriracha sauce, that if they were buying that particular brand, we’re happy to step in as a supplier of Sriracha for them,” she said.

Distributors of Huy Fong Food’s Sriracha have assured local clients that they have enough of the green-capped "rooster sauce" to last through the shipping freeze, but distributors have been urging their customers to stock up early, just in case.

“[My purveyor] said they should be OK for a couple of months, but they said ‘You should start stocking it up at the restaurant.’ I think I’m going to do that,” said The Windsor's Mana-ay.

“Even before it was on the menu, I’d have it on hand in the restaurant because everybody loves it,” she said. If she does eventually run out, Mana-ay said she will begin making her own Sriracha.

Huy Fong Foods did not respond to requests for comment.