Exploring Sri Racha in Thailand, Home of the World's Favourite Hot Sauce

The much-loved sauce | © Steven Guzzardi/Flickr
The much-loved sauce | © Steven Guzzardi/Flickr
Everyone has heard of the delicious, spicy hot sauce sriracha – it can be found in kitchens the world over, is featured in thousands of recipes and is even available as a key chain. However, few people know of its humble origins in the coastal Thai town of Sri Racha, in Chonburi province. Here’s a quick guide to the history of the sauce, and things to do in this sleepy seaside spot.

Sriracha sauce

Whilst the most recognised brand of sauce, Huy Fong, is Vietnamese-American, sriracha actually originated in Thailand. According to the Thai Chomrom Rak Sri Racha (or Sri Racha Lovers’ Association in English) the sauce itself was created by Burmese sawmill workers in the town of Sriracha, about 120km away from Bangkok. Workers would take the ingredients, pound them together with a pestle and mortar and share between themselves, before then starting to sell it to customers.

The much-loved sauce © Steven Guzzardi/Flickr

Today, it’s a global phenomenon. What was once a local sauce made by hand is now a global operation, with some American varieties even aged in whiskey barrels – a far cry from its humble roots. It’s even changed in flavour; Thai versions that still exist today tend to be less viscous and with more of a sour, tangy taste, whilst the popular western versions have a hint of sweetness that’s more palatable for their given audience.

Sri Racha today – things to do

Despite being a globally-recognised name – even if some don’t know it’s a town after all – Sri Racha has remained relatively sleepy and undeveloped compared to neighbouring cities like Chonburi and Pattaya. Still, there are a few things to do to keep you entertained – aside from eating copious amounts of the sauce, that is.

By the coast, there’s a small island named Koh Loi that’s accessible via a small bridge. When we say small, we mean tiny. There’s a wonderful Chinese temple to be visited here, as well as a small park full of sea turtles and plenty of seats where you can relax and enjoy the sea views. The island’s small size and picturesque surroundings make it a romantic spot to enjoy the sunset.

Tiger and pigs, living together in harmony © Leo Fung/Flickr

For something a little more high octane, visitors can take a trip to the Sri Racha Tiger Zoo. Home to more than 400 Bengal tigers, you can witness their friendly relationship with the pigs at the zoo, and even feed and take photos with them. There are also elephants and crocodiles here, though if seeing a wide range of animals is your preference, you might want to head to the Khao Kheow Open Zoo instead. Located just outside the town, there are over 300 different species of animals to be seen here, many of which can be spied on their nighttime safari. There’s also a zip line adventure park to be enjoyed, alongside plenty of restaurants – a great day out. On the way to the zoo, a stop off at Chanta Ten waterfall will be well worth your time. With five levels, it’s a beautiful sight and one of Thailand’s many examples of these natural wonders.

A baby hippo at Khao Kheow Open Zoo © Dean Croshere/Flickr

Next door

Whilst Sri Racha is sleepy, the cities next door certainly aren’t. Chonburi, the capital of the province of the same name, offers a selection of attractive beaches and generally has more going on in terms of nightlife. Pattaya, 30km south of Sri Racha, offers even more entertainment – it’s well-known for its many beaches and thriving nightlife, and offers an alternative for when you fancy a change from quiet Sri Racha.

Koh Si Chang © Sergey/Flickr

For a nearby island, Koh Si Chang is a welcome retreat with enough to keep you busy. From beaches to more cultural activities such as visiting the temples and the impressive Royal Summer Palace, it’s not the most beautiful Thai island but it’s certainly worth a visit. Ferries can be caught from the docks in Sri Racha, take about 40 minutes.