Friday, June 11, 2010

Lotus Root Chips

I have a nagging feeling that I don't review nearly enough funky stuff. With that in mind, I've decided to push myself a little harder to buy weird rather than appealing snack items. And, with that said, don't expect too much from this commitment. It's probably going to be more like a New Year's resolution than a marriage vow. It's one I'm unlikely to fulfill except in a half-hearted fashion and eventually I'll give up.

With the notion in mind that I need to try harder to introduce at least slightly quirky foods into the rotation, I picked up these lotus root chips. "Lotus root" in Japanese is renkon (れんこん, 蓮根 or レンコン). For some reason this bag has it written in hiragana (the phonetic alphabet for Japanese words) but the Japanese Wikipedia entry lists it in katakana (the phonetic alphabet for foreign words). That only means something to you if you're shopping in Japan and need to track the characters down or study Japanese and care about such things.

Lotus root is common in Asian cuisine and Chinese medicine. It is high in water, fiber and carbohydrates. It also contains Vitamin C, Potassium, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Phosphorus, Copper and Manganese. I'm guessing that at least some of the nutritional benefits are lost in how these are processed to make a salted snack. I can say with certainty that a lot of salt is added in as these have 326 mg. of sodium. That's 22% of daily sodium intake in a small bag of these.

It's not something I have had any experience with either back home or in Japan. My eating is not particularly adventurous (hence my half-assed assertion at the start of this post), and I just can't recall ordering some food and finding lacy bits of lotus root in it since coming here. That being said, I believe I have eaten these as Japanese pickles before, though mainly when eating spicy Japanese curry so I can't say their true flavor was revealed between the brine and the curry flavors.

I found these at AM/PM convenience store for 105 yen ($1.14). They caught my eye for several reasons. The portion is small at 18 grams (.63 oz.), which is always good when you're sampling something new. Their ingredients include various seasonings including onion and mustard powder as well as Sucralose.

These smell like frying oil that is a bit on the "used" side. They are a little hard and super crunchy. The texture is a bit similar to fried onions. The flavor whollops you hard right from the start, particularly a hot mustard taste. The flavor reminds me greatly of the tiny packets of hot mustard that I get from our favorite yakitori joint or that you might get for egg rolls from a Chinese restaurant. Frankly, I can't taste anything other than the mustard, salt, and the savory spices. If lotus root has a taste of its own, it's buried in these chips.

Frankly, I liked these. I liked how powerful the flavor was and the heat. I enjoyed the crunchiness of them and felt they were not really all that dissimilar from a thick potato chip in terms of texture. That being said, I'm not sure they're a whole lot healthier for you than a conventional chip. In fact, calorie-wise, these are just a few calories higher than your average chip at 96 calories for this small bag.

If you enjoy really hot mustard and salted crunchy snacks, I recommend these. If you're not a fan of mustard that can be so intense that it blows heat up the back of your nasal passages, then these aren't for you. If you love lotus root, you're probably better off buying the real deal since I don't think these are going to do much for you.


Ikkin-bot said...

I've always been curious about Lotus root and have yet to get up the courage to buy them at the Asian grocery store I go to.

Sherry said...

Lotus root doesn't have a very strong flavor on its own. It kind of absorbs the flavor of the sauces used with it. I love lotus root. Not sure I will try these those as I am not a big fan of that kind of mustard.

Orchid64 said...

Thanks to both of you for taking the time to comment!

And, thanks Sherry for the input on the flavor. It sounds a lot like many additions to Japanese cuisine (tofu, konnyaku, etc.) which don't have a strong flavor of their own and mainly absorb the flavors around them. If I made the sort of dishes that could take on flavors, I'd probably give it a try given that it is full of fiber. It does sound healthy.