The Palíto Czech chilli company grows and harvests several tonnes of chillis each year. These are then sold fresh, dried and in sauces. We met with, Daniel Všetečka, the owner of Palíto to discover the company’s origins and plans for the future.
TPR: Hey Daniel, so where does this story begin?
DV: With me buying chilli seeds from India and growing plants on my balcony. I was 20 years old and had just started my degree course at the Czech University of Life Sciences (CULS) in Prague.
TPR: Even if I could grow chillis, I’d probably just chop them up and add them to some recipe. Why sauces?
DV: Well for one thing, the chilli season here in the Czech Republic is June to October. I wanted a chilli hit all year round. So I looked up some sauces recipes and experimented. My first attempt was to mash up the chillis with salt and vinegar – I’ve come a long way since that first recipe.
TPR: I can see that from this ‘All in One’ box.
DV: Yes that contains all our core products. These range from a slightly spicy salsa, to the extremely hot Dragon’s Blood sauce, made by cold pressing the two hottest chillis in the world (Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Scorpion Moruga).
TPR: All of these are made from locally-grown chillis?
DV: Yes, everything grown organically in our greenhouse, without using synthetic pesticides. The harvested chillis are all processed within one hour, so we don’t need to use any chemicals.
TPR: So, you are at Uni, growing chillis and experimenting with different sauces. Did you manage to sell any?
DV: It was really just a hobby. I’d give sauces to friends in my local bar and they’d give me feedback – well that or just compete to see who could eat a spoonful of the hottest one! And that hobby continued when I spent 10 months in Spain as part of the Erasmus student exchange program in 2014. I learned more about chilli and also discovered that the Czech phrase ‘Pálí to’ (it’s hot) was similar to a Spanish word ‘Palito’ meaning ‘little stick’. I later found out that in Mexico, ‘Palito’ is slang for ‘little dick’!
TPR: No plans to launch the brand in Mexico then (laughs)? And what was the turning point, where Palíto became more than just a hobby.
DV: CULS has a a business incubator called ‘Point One‘ – they provide professional services and facilities for budding entrepreneurs. In May 2016, I presented my idea for Palíto and they agreed to support that project. In November, I entered a team into a contest, competing against five other teams from three university incubators. Their ideas ranged from portable concrete barriers to snack bars made from insects. Palíto won first place.
DV: In 2018, I rented a greenhouse in Mělník and subsequently harvested 800 kilos of chillis.
TPR: That’s a lot of sauces, where did you sell them?
DV: We tried farmer’s markets, but customers weren’t quite sure what we were selling. Then we ran a few street food stalls, selling nachos with our dips and Mexican food made with our sauces – they were much more popular as people could actually taste our products.
TPR: Now you have an e-shop https://www.palito.cz/ – is that your main sales outlet?
DV: The e-shop is probably where most of our customers buy our products, but we supply a number of restaurants with fresh chillis and sauces. We also developed some in-house sauces in conjunction with Black Betties Bar & Grill https://www.blackbetties.com/ – they use the sauces in their menu and also sell them to customers. During chilli season, look out for ‘Chilli Week’ at Sia Restaurant https://www.siarestaurant.cz/ as they use our chillis.
TPR: I’m surprised you don’t sell fresh chillis to all the Mexican restaurants in Prague.
DV: Well there are two problems; supply and price. We can only supply fresh chillis between June and October. Our chillis are also more expensive than imported chillis, because we use more labour-intensive organic methods.
TPR: So what’s next for Palíto?
DV: As with every business, I’d like more people to be aware of our products. I wonder what your readers would think about a ‘chilli sauce of the month club’ where we send a special recipe sauce each month, plus your favourite sauce from our core products? I also realise that not everyone knows what to do with our sauces and we need to create some recipes.
TPR: A subscription sounds like a good idea and yes, I’d also need some recipes to know whether I’m supposed to add sauce after, marinate before, or put on the side as a dip. Can you provide a couple of recipes that I can add at the end of this article?
DV: Sure okay.
TPR: Finally, I know that you’ve entered and won several chilli eating contests, but what’s the deal with the glasses of milk?
DV: You can drink milk before the competition, but not during. The glasses just sit there, waiting for a contestant to crack – you drink, you lose!
Chillis and Scoville Heat Units
Chillis originated in Mexico, but are now grown Worldwide, with China as the largest producer. The chilli is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum. When Christopher Columbus and his crew reached the Caribbean, they were the first Europeans to encounter Capsicum. They called them ‘peppers’ because, like black pepper of the genus Piper known in Europe, they have a spicy, hot taste.
The ‘heat’ from a chilli is measured using Scoville Heat Units (SHU) with 100 or less for a regular bell pepper, to over three million for the fearesome Carolina Reaper. SHU is chemically a linear scale. However, by perception it’s more like a logarithmic scale – tolerance builds logarithmically.
Thai soup with coconut milk and coriander
This is a popular dish offered by Palíto at steet food festivals – a spicy Thai soup, prepared in cooperation with Vozovna bistro.
Ingredients for four servings of soup:
- Tomato soup with coconut milk and coriander
- Peeled tomatoes – two cans
- Coconut milk 500 ml
- Shallot 1 pc
- Fresh chili pepper 1/3 piece
- Carrots 1 piece
- Lime leaves 3 pieces
- Lemon grass 1 pc
- Fresh coriander 1 handful
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Cane sugar
- Salt and Pepper
- Palíto Tomato Chili Sauce – Trinidad Scorpion Moruga
The preparation process will take you about 45 minutes.
Fry the finely chopped shallots with the chilli in a drop of oil and after a while add the chopped carrots to smaller pieces. Carrots should turn slightly brown, be careful not to burn the shallots. Then add the peeled tomatoes, coconut milk and all the other ingredients to the pot, which will create a really great and fragrant broth. Just leave the coriander leaves (you can add the stems to the broth) and keep the lime juice until the final flavour of the soup. Then simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes.
The soup needs to be mixed into a cream. Some prefer it denser, some less, so you can dilute it with a clear conscience by adding vegetable broth or even a larger dose of coconut milk. The base should be a slightly sweet taste, so use cane sugar and do not forget the salt and pepper.
When ready, add a few teaspoons of Palíto Tomato Chili Sauce – Trinidad Scorpion Moruga depending on how spicy you like it.
Pumpkin soup with mustard chili sauce
- 1 large Hokkaido pumpkin
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves (sliced)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Mango mustard sauce – Carolina Reaper
You also need a food mixer.
First, cut the pumpkin, dig out the seeds and cut the pulp, including the skin, into larger pieces. Fry the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the prepared pieces of pumpkin, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and fry briefly.
Add 1 liter of water, bring to a boil and cook over a low flame under the lid until the pumpkin softens (approx. 30 min). Then allow to cool and mix to a smooth cream. Season with sea salt.
When ready, add just one teaspoon of Mango mustard sauce – Carolina Reaper.
Chilli burrito with beef sirloin and baked cheddar
This recipe was sent to Palíto by a skilful young chef, Jakub, who we met briefly during his internship in our sauce kitchen.
- 2 corn tortillas
- 1 medium onion (red or white according to taste)
- 1 red pepper (preferably capsicum)
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- A sprig of fresh coriander
- 200 g of white beans
- 400 g beef sirloin
- 100 g cheddar
- 50 ml Palíto Tomato Chili Sauce – Trinidad Scorpion Moruga
- Salt and pepper
The preparation process will take you about 40 minutes.
Fry the onion in the saucepan. Add tomatoes and paprika cut into small pieces. Then add the beans, Palíto Tomato Chili Sauce – Trinidad Scorpion Moruga and coriander. Bring to the boil and simmer for a while.
Meanwhile, cut the beef sirloin into slices of 2-3 cm. Season the meat. Place on a hot pan and fry on each side for 3-4 minutes. When the meat is ready, cut it into strips.
Put the sauce on the tortilla, the meat on it and the cheddar on the meat. Then put all this in a pre-heated oven for 2 – 3 minutes at 180 °. It’s ready to serve.
The Palíto ‘All in One’ box
The Palíto ‘All in One’ box contains one of everything for 999 CZK. I really liked being able to try the various sauces and choose those that were right for me.
Here are the contents of the box: