Bottle of sriracha at Saucy Porka in Hyde Park.  A nationwide shortage of the popular sauce has led to soaring prices on Amazon and eBay.

It's classic combinations like peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese: a bowl of pho with a drizzle of sriracha.

But not just any sriracha goes well with Vietnamese noodle soup. For most people, it must be Huy Fong, who has a picture of a rooster in a bottle and a green hat.

The rise in popularity of this condiment made from chilies ground into a thick paste comes as a surprise to Thien Ly, whose family owns and operates Tank Noodles at 4953 N. Broadway in Uptown and 4706 W. Irving Park Road in Portage Park.

Bottle of sriracha at Saucy Porka in Hyde Park. A nationwide shortage of the popular sauce has led to soaring prices on Amazon and eBay.

“Back when I was growing up, (sriracha) wasn't very popular,” says Ly, now 35. “No one really knows about it except the Vietnamese community who eat pho.”

Since then, Huy Fong's sriracha has spawned imitators and found its way into everything from potato chips and beef jerky to ranch dressing and tartar sauce.

But these days bottles are hard to come by.

Huy Fong, a California-based producer, uses peppers from suppliers in Mexico, where the crop is hit by a severe drought. Huy Fong did not respond to a request for comment, but did in April the company to CBSMoneyWatch it was having a paprika sourcing problem.

The shortage has prompted restaurants like Saucy Porka to look for alternatives.

April is when Amy Le, co-owner and chef of Saucy Porka, begins to feel the effects of shortages at her restaurants in Hyde Park and the South Loop. Le says his staff are starting to use alternative hot sauces like Mexican Cholula hot sauce, which Le says makes sense for a Latin American-Asian fusion restaurant.

A box of 200 packs of the hot sauce costs about $14, Le said. About three weeks ago Huy Fong's sriracha brand was selling for $50 per box, which contains six bottles; five years ago it cost $27.95, he said.

Ly of Tank Noodle says the business is stockpiling sriracha every chance it gets and, at one point, had 20 cases.

“We are not trying to plan a replacement. But I feel a great sense of urgency because we are slowly running out of sriracha,” said Ly. “If this continues you will have to find alternatives and that is probably the best way (going forward) for a lot of restaurants. … I think it's a good time for competition to come in and try to work in that market.

This might be a tough sell for someone new.

“I've tried a few other brands, and you know, they just don't work,” says Ly. “Difficult, planning a replacement for A-1 sauce or Heinz ketchup. (Alternative) will work, but you lose the flavor.

Ly says making your own is not an option.

“I don't know where to start. We make our own chili oil but the sriracha is very unique. And in order to produce that much to satisfy the number of customers who use it for pho, I will build my own factory.”

At Saigon Sisters, 567 W. Lake St., where sriracha is a key component of its sriracha wings, they were making sriracha before the pandemic, says owner Mary Aregoni.

They finally canceled the dish during the pandemic when the price of chicken got too high. They also stopped making sauces due to difficulty sourcing Thai peppers.

“It's just a different ballgame to produce and mass-produce something like that,” said Aregoni.

The vendor doesn't have any sriracha available right now but says it will be back at the end of the month. But he's nervous about the price and is considering going back to making his own sauce.

“It used to be $2.99 ​​for a 32 ounce bottle or something. I think the highest price I've ever seen was $7.99. But if it costs $15 or more, I might prefer to make it myself.”

While restaurants are struggling for sauce, it's even tougher for the shopper.

Trung Nguyen, assistant director at Jewel Osco, said no grocery store had stock of Huy Fong sriracha for six weeks.

“I have absolutely no tentative date for when (Huy Fong's) sriracha will return to shelves,” Nguyen said. Despite the shortages, said Nguyen, the stores have yet to see an increase in sales of other sriracha brands.

Where Huy Fong sriracha is available, the price has gone up. Way up.

Max Chavez, a West Ridge resident who is director of research and special projects at Preservation Chicago, was shopping at Joong Boo recently when he saw a 28-ounce bottle of ketchup for $29.99.

“I don't think I've ever paid more than $6 or $7 for a bottle of sriracha,” said Chavez, who didn't buy it. “I can be convinced to pay up to $10 or even $15 for a bottle at this point, but $30 for a 28-ounce bottle is highway robbery. No hot sauce is that good.”

On Amazon on Wednesday, a 28-ounce bottle costs nearly $50. The 12 pack case sells for $300 on eBay.

Le, who grew up in the restaurant business with his mother's Chinese restaurant in St. Louis, said he hoped the result of the sriracha shortage, however long it might be, would be general food availability.

“I see a lot of memes making fun of it, but it's a scary situation, like ‘Is this the new world we live in?'” said Le. “It's just going to continue where we start to like to see one type of product disappear and then maybe a few more products down the road… because we can't harvest as much as we used to.”