Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nabisco Spicy Barbeque "Potato Crisps"

The Onion has an AV Club feature called "Taste Test". For the most part, they tend to cover things which they expect to be pretty bad. I've found that doing a food review blog sort of encourages this sort of perverse seeking out of the sort of food stuffs that most sensible people would avoid. Though one might assume that those who have a chance to taste a lot of different things may seek out more exotic experiences, I don't think this has anything to do with boredom. I believe it has everything to do with the fact that you get a lot more mileage out of bad food than good food when you're writing.

In the spirit of buying something which I expected to be bad, I picked up the bag of "potato crisps" pictured above for 99 yen ($1.00). Two points about it drew my attention. First of all, it is made by Nabisco and I rarely see or buy their products in Japan. Though they are well known in the United States, they don't have nearly such an expansive product line-up here. I believe their best known item is the Picola cookie which is a thin rolled up sugar cookie filled with various types of "cream".

The second point that caught my attention was the name of the product. Since the Japanese use "potato chips" in Japanese, there is no reason to name these "crisps" unless one is British or these aren't real chips. If they're not real chips, then whatever processed concoction they turn out to be may be more interesting (though probably less tasty) than an actual chip.

When I opened the bag, I was greeted by carefully processed "crisps". They are different shapes and sizes and they're ridged just like a normal ridge cut potato chip might be. However, they are bumpy all over in a way you don't see from frying, but rather from uniform baking and rising. Sure enough, these are Pringles-style processed chips without the orderliness or the can.

The smell when you open the bag is intensely spicy. There's a melange of flavors so it's hard to identify any one scent. There is a hint of tomato in the smell, but not in the ingredients list. The primary ingredient is "potato flakes" and the flavorings include pork extract powder, soy sauce, and "sauce" powders. My guess is that the vague "sauce" is where the tomato comes from and it's meant to be generic barbeque sauce flavoring.

The first bite is spicy and salty and a bit overwhelming. As you eat a few more, you get a strong sense of a meaty flavor and with a ketchup chaser. The chips are very crispy and light, though they are still very fattening. One bag is 65 grams (2.2 oz.) and 348 calories. There's a slight artificial aftertaste, but it's not nearly as strong as you get from Pringles processed chips.

I liked these just fine. If my options were limited and I wanted a salted snack, this would certainly come out ahead of a lot of other contenders. If I wanted a spicy chip, I'd take this over a better plain potato chip and I'd certainly put it near the top of the processed chips I've tried, but I'd still opt for Lay's or another big brand barbeque over these.

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