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The ‘King of Gummies’ built his empire with chamoy and candy

Mike’s Sweet & Spicy
Mike’s Sweet & Spicy candies include chamoy-coated Gushers, gummy bears, Nerd Ropes and other sweets.
(Mike’s Sweet & Spicy)

These days you can get gummy candies flavored like pizza and bacon. There are even gross-out gummies designed to taste like dirt and even less savory natural phenomena.

To find the sweet stuff that Mike Zeytounian covets, he had to make his own.

Specifically, chamoy-coated gummies similar to the homemade ones his fellow students would bring to Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet in Boyle Heights, where he attended high school.

Today the 24-year-old candyman is selling his own “chili gummies” under the name Mike’s Sweet & Spicy. Zeytounian’s arsenal includes chamoy-coated Gushers, gummy bears, Nerd Ropes, Starburst and sour watermelon gummies. Each comes packed in plastic bags bearing a molten red bear melting beneath a golden crown.

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Chamoy is the catchall term for the bright red condiments one finds rimming micheladas, dripping from paletas, coating fruit slices and drizzled over tostilocos. The sauce is a symphony of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavors.

Traditionally made with salt-pickled fruit such as sour plums, mangos or apricots, today chamoy is more likely found in industrialized commercial versions, with gums and artificial powders replicating its flavor medley.

Zeytounian says he buys bottled chamoy at El Super before mixing it with candy from Costco, blending in Tajín, sea salt, citric acid and various chiles he toasts and grinds into powder.

Still, he puts considerable thought into his chamoy of choice. They’re available in varying levels of heat, and Zeytounian prefers those on the more sour end of the spectrum.

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“It’s not only spice you’ll taste,” he says. “I like a more sour and spicy mix, which highlights the sweetness better.”

Once you manage to pry a few loose and pop them in your mouth, the sour and spicy seasonings hit first, fading into sweetness and leaving behind a tolerable heat.

It’s June, which means that we have the longest day of the year to look forward to this month.

Zeytounian is far from the only Angeleno selling his own chile-laced gummies. Local brands include Tamarindo Lindo in La Puente; Lily’s Chilies, which serves La Crescenta and Burbank; and the festival-frequenting Gomitas el Pansitas, to name a few.

But Mike’s may be the most visible at the moment.

They’re currently sold at Chips ’n’ Chicks, a nocturnal hot chicken truck that pops up at the Tujunga Car Wash, and at Pizza Man in Van Nuys.

Dubbing himself “King of Gummies” on Instagram, Zeytounian’s plans for the near future include an online store. He also wants to create new, non-chamoy chile blends to tap into different flavors and forms of edible heat.


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