Saturday, October 11, 2008
Riska Super Heart Chiple
One of the local convenience stores near my home is a 99 yen (about $1) store. While many of the items are 99 yen, some are actually cheaper. There is a selection of small bags of salted snacks which are 4 bags for 99 yen or about a quarter/25 yen apiece. I'm not sure if these small bags are there for portion control or if they are directed toward children, but they are stocked near a variety of sweets that are definitely directed toward kids.
In the past, I've purchased "Christmas Packs" directed toward kids which contain a variety of snack items including salted snacks and sweets. One point I noticed about them was that they tended to contain "junk food" which was a bit less junky than those items marketed toward adults. This bag of Super Heart Chiple seems to fit the same mold. The chips are not made with potatoes. They are made with non-glutinous rice and resemble extremely light sembei both in texture and flavor.
Each chip is super light, heart-shaped and has little bumps on it as if it were cooked on a patterned baking sheet. While fat is the second ingredient, I don't believe these were deep fried. They are not overly oily, but they are shiny and (very marginally) greasy-feeling on the outside. The red dust on the outside is paprika.
When you open the bag, you get a whiff of garlic. The front of the package shows a garlic bulb and says that they've improved the garlic flavor. The chips are savory and lightly salty. Despite the flames around the garlic bulb, they are not actually hot though you can experience a cumulative hot garlic effect. The spiciness level is really quite pleasant and well-balanced. They do leave a pretty garlicky aftertaste in your mouth though so you don't want to eat them if you're in a position to offend someone else with your breath.
The company that makes these, Riska, is not a well-known brand. They appear to specialize in these sorts of cheap snacks and I wasn't surprised to see that they produce a lot of the bags of snacks in the section which offers 4 for 99 yen at the local store. They also seem to be responsible for a variety of children's sweets. The company is relatively young by Japanese standards, having been started in 1971. Like many companies, they have a quaint "philosophy" meant to humanize public perception of them rather than view them as merely a business. The company's production concept is "heart mind". The idea is that the "mind" part is related to technological advances and the "heart" relates to keeping the quality and touch of hand-made products.
The entire bag of chips is 15 grams (1/2 ounce) which doesn't sound like much, but there is a lot of crispy enjoyment in it. It's light because the chips are puffy. I didn't count, but I think there may be 20-25 chips in the small bag and it's only 84 calories. The main thing about these which may not be attractive to some foreign palates is that they do taste like sembei (rice crackers). If you like sembei and garlic, you will very likely enjoy these and they will offer you something salty which isn't as bad for you as a bag of chips. I certainly will be revisiting these next time I want something salty and crispy.