Monday, November 24, 2008
Potato Snack Steak
Truth in advertising clearly is not an issue in Japan. Take this "potato snack". The first three ingredients are flour, oil, and sugar. It seems that there isn't much in the way of actual potato in it, though one of the ingredients is "starch" and it could be potato starch. In keeping with the Japanese trend of putting sweeteners in savory foods, there is also Stevia in this. My guess is that this is supposed to resemble a potato chip rather than actually be a potato-based food.
Since cartoon characters are used to advertise everything in Japan, you can't tell by packaging whether or not something is for adults or for kids. This item is actually for kids. It's sold in a bin full of sweets and salty snacks for children that are 27 yen (27 cents) or 4 for 99 yen ($1) in price. I picked up 4 different items for review (the others will come later) and started with this strange item.
The snacks, and other ones like them made with popcorn, rice, corn, wheat, etc., are made by a company called Izumi (いずみ邑本舗). The company has a diverse product base including noodles, sweets, sembei (rice crackers), and other miscellaneous snacks both marketed as gifts and run-of-the-mill consumer products. It's "new" by Japanese food company standards and started doing business in 1950. They've also got a handful of their own shops in the Tokai region of Japan. This is the sort of company which few people recognize as they have no signature products and most of their goods seem pretty low rent. Essentially, they have very low brand name awareness.
My expectations of anything which costs so little and is marketed toward kids are low so I didn't approach this with the idea of loving it, but simply sampling it out of pure interest. There are four large chips in the foil packet. The chips diameter is slightly smaller than the length of a ballpoint pen. When you open the package, you smell a strange smell that I'd say is a cross between a generic fried food smell and spices, with vaguely beef-like overtones.
The taste is shockingly salty for a kid's treat. It's only moderately beef-like but has a very strong finish of celery salt. The texture of these is really quite nice. They are very crispy and seem to be comprised of multiple layers of paper thin layers of whatever it is they are made of (grease and flour?). Either that or the dough used to make these forms a super thin crispy shell on either side when it's fried. The chips are a bit greasy on the outside, but don't seem to be saturated with oil. Calorie information isn't given on the packet, but the web site states that there are 76 calories in 4 chips (13 grams/.45 oz).
If I had children, I certainly would try to avoid these. They have added calcium, but are otherwise pretty bad on the nutritional front because they're just fried flour patties with seasoning. Also, because they are so salty, I have to imagine the sodium content is high. As an adult, these strike me as some of the "junkier" junk food out there. They're not bad, but eating them makes me feel more polluted than usual (and that's saying something considering the junk I review).