Recently, I learned via The Impulsive Buy, that Nabisco is making watermelon Oreo cookies. Watermelon and chocolate are not a good pairing in my mind, but neither are chili and chocolate in the estimation of my stodgy mind. Some people think chili and chocolate are a dandy pairing. In fact, the Aztecs, Inca, or Mayans, or perhaps even all of them, drank chocolate with chili added to it. It's an acquired taste that's much older than modern food snobbery. Nonetheless, I'm still thinking watermelon with bitter chocolate cookies is a bizarre combo. In fact, the strangeness of it all made me nostalgic for the weird KitKat flavors in Japan, even though they have not been so weird lately.
They aren't in it for your money or anything, just the smiles and so they can personally enjoy themselves.
Fortunately, there are other mountains to climb on the unusual flavors front and that's where this bagna caude chip comes in. During my last year in Japan, bagna caude was on the ascension. It's a dip that is popular in Italy, especially ins some particular parts, and consists of olive oil, anchovies, garlic and butter. It was usually pretty expensive, and I think it's part of a trend I tend to see in economies which are on the down-swing. That is, restaurants and businesses know that poor folks aren't going to have the scratch to buy more, so they cater to more upscale buyers by offering more expensive novelties. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the market skews toward the desires of the rich. You can't get blood from a stone, after all.
At any rate, about three days before I saw this bag of bagna caude chips at Mitsuwa market, a friend posted a picture of her meal at a restaurant and it included the aforementioned Italian dip. At that time, I thought, "I wonder if there are bagna caude chips on the market in Japan." Lo and behold, they were delivered unto me for the bargain price of $1.49 (149 yen, they sell for 120 yen in Japan) for a 2 oz./60 g. bag. Though I'm not a fan of anchovies or fish in general, I was very interested in sampling this.
When I opened the bag, I felt that the scent definitely carried the essence of fish. This is no surprise because, even though there are no anchovies in this, there is "fish sauce powder" and "mackeral powder". There's also MSG. Mmmm, mmmm, good! Actually, these did not taste especially "fishy" to me at all and I only got a hint of fish after about the 4th chip. Clearly, it needs to build up a bit or I'm a lot less sensitive to fish than I might have expected. What I did get from this chip is a unique and almost overwhelming blast of savory goodness. It's not just salty, it's meaty without the meat, or, as the food snobs are saying these days, "umami". No single flavor comes through strongly, but they all blend into a mixture which is potent, but not overpowering. The chips themselves are not to be underrated as they are thin and crispy and not too greasy. They're about everything you might want from a basic chip.
I have to hand it to Yamayoshi or to the Italian folks who cultivated bagna cauda. This is a unique flavor which still tastes good. While it is, after all, just a chip, it's an interesting and satisfying one. I don't eat many chips, though I'd certainly consider buying this one again if I thought it was going to remain on the market. I can say that I believe it won't because it's a limited edition and part of a food fad. If you want to try it, I'd say get it while the getting is still good.