Sunday, September 21, 2008
One thing you notice if you live in Japan long enough is that food manufacturers are big fans of short-term variations on their core products. In the U.S., you find markets stocking a huge variety all the time, though they also introduce limited edition flavors regularly. In Tokyo, with such limited shelf space in most stores, you get more of what I'd call "serial variety". That means that you should stock up on some obscure flavor if you like it because it probably won't come around again for another year once it's off the shelves.
I've also been told by Japanese people that they like sampling a wide variety of flavors and, in fact, I've been told that the U.S. has little variety compared to Japan. Given that my CH's trip home last year included pictures of shelves chock-a-block with 12 different flavors of coffee creamer, the observation that the U.S. has little variety comes as a surprise to me. I think that what the Japanese people mean is that the U.S. doesn't have the flavor "revolving door" that Japan appears to have. The thing about these variations, and I have to give the marketing folks credit for this, is that they encourage you to sample. It's not only the novelty, but also the limited availability.
I'm not a big chip eater, but I decided to pick up these garlic Doritos at the 99 yen shop when I saw about fifty bags of them on display. I love garlic and I do like tortilla chips. However, my taste in tortilla chips is definitely more toward the baked variety. We buy cases of "Guiltless Gourmet" mucho nacho flavor chips from the Foreign Buyer's Club to have when the desire for something salty hits. I also pack a small handful of them with my CH's lunch most days. In general, Doritos are too greasy for me.
The garlic Doritos smelled like beef consomme when I opened the bag. The smell of garlic isn't all that strong. The taste, however, was pretty intense. When my CH tried them, he thought there was a hint of pepper in them but there is no pepper listed in the ingredients. I think that the garlic is so intense that it tastes a bit hot. If you've ever been foolish enough to bite down on a raw garlic clove, you know that it can taste rather hot depending on the age and type of garlic.
The chips definitely had a strong overtone of consomme flavor (like chicken or beef bullion cubes) and what are called "barbecue" chips in Japan. In the U.S., "barbecue" usually means a sort of spicy, tomato or ketchup flavored chip. In Japan, it is supposed to be a chip which tastes similar to barbecued or grilled meat.
While these chips aren't bad, they also aren't great. If you want something salty and they're around, they're serviceable. However, they aren't the sort of thing I'd find myself craving or buying again.