Charamanga Hot Sauce Combines Flavors of Neretva Valley and Mediterranean

Daniela Rogulj

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The Croatian hot sauce scene is getting richer and more diverse. Mijo Micheta Ćelić, a professor of cooking at Metković High School and the creative mind behind the line of hot sauces called Charamanga, has also joined this chili-loving crowd, reports Like Metković.

On his family estate in Duvrat, Ćelić grows Cayenne pepper, Jamaican hot yellow, Habanero, Fed mushroom, and the hottest among them Carolina red reaper and tabasco pepper, which are added to hot sauces.

It all started exactly three years ago when, as part of his family farm, he planted various types of hot peppers on agricultural land behind the family kitchen. However, he was only attempting to standardize his sauce for Neretva brudet, which failed and still remains a challenge. He worked at the Hotel Saudade Gradac 5-6 years ago, where the name, Charamanga, came to life. 

“One day, chef Barba came and said ‘Give me Mijo’s charamanga!’, When asked what it was, he just replied ‘Oh, that’s the spicy stuff Mijo is mixing,’ he recalls of its beginnings.

A six-year culinary experience on cruise ships also had a significant influence on Mijo’s creativity:

“I’ve seen the world, got to know different cuisines, and when it comes to spices, Thai is somehow the closest thing to me. Still, I want to give each of my sauces something homemade, guided by the flavors that are familiar to the palates of our people, but in a new format,” he said. 

“My angel, right hand, and great support is Marija Cindrić, who is responsible for the visual identity and branding of products and for social media marketing. At the very beginning, the world of hot sauces in our area was opened by ‘Juta Spiza’ from Split. Today I work closely with ‘Slavonsko Zlo’,” says Mijo and lists the places where his hot sauces are served: Mama Mia and Industry Pub in Metković, Beach House in Blace, Oliva, Piazza Bistro & Cafe, and Žminac in Ploče, Morenia in Brist, Papar Grill in Makarska, Štikovica, Saint Blaise in Dubrovnik, Demežana in Cavtat, Kai in Zagreb.

Interestingly, Charamanga hot sauces have also reached distant destinations in Japan and the Philippines, thanks to the chefs Mijo has collaborated with.

Each Charamanga sauce is named after a chef Mijo has worked with. So far, he has launched eight types, is preparing two more sauces (Divlji and John) and two dry spices. 

Bajto – habanero hot pepper / liquid smoke/fennel seeds/carrots / homemade wine vinegar/sugar; herbs: heather, lemon balm, sage, mint, rosemary, basil
Barba – hot cayenne pepper/honey/tomato; herbs: basil and oregano. It is recommended with all types of pizza, bolognese pasta, and other Italian dishes.
Dotur – habanero hot pepper/fig/cherry / homemade wine vinegar; herbs: heather, lemon balm, sage, mint rosemary. A universal spice that is most domesticated in grilled dishes
Gigec – Jamaican hot yellow pepper/mandarin/cinnamon/star anise. Indigenous representative of Neretva gastronomy

Ku-ma – Habanero / cayenne pepper / mushroom pepper / roasted horn pepper / plum / mint. The hottest Charamanga sauce
Lipa Kate (Aceto balsamico) – vinegar / fig / sugar / cherry. It is recommended as an addition to salads and stews, dedicated
Micheta – habanero chili pepper/salt/honey / homemade wine vinegar; herbs: rosemary, sage, heather, lemon balm, mint, thyme, basil. The first Charamanga sauce and the only one that is not fermented
Pa-jo – kumquat / wine / vinegar / mallow / mint / sugar / salt. The fermentation of kumquat achieved a special sour-spicy note. Pairing with blue fish is recommended. Ideal for marinated fish and sardine carpaccio
Giovanni dry spice – an addition to dishes and cooking. It contains mountain herbs such as sage, calluna, and thyme, as well as home-grown herbs such as lemon balm, mint, rosemary 
Rodijak dry spice – an addition to dishes and cooking. A mixture of paprika and salt, a great addition to broths.

Mijo has suggested one recipe for each which you can find on the official website.

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