Monday, April 21, 2014

Calbee Yuzu Koshoo Potato Chips

My sister-in-law is currently in Madrid visiting family. She hasn't been able to upload many pictures because of her crummy internet there, but she was able to share a picture of a "cronut" being sold in a bakery there for one Euro. Cronuts, for those who have been asleep like Rip Van Winkle for the past year or however long it has been since these were invented, were invented in New York by Dominique Ansel and they are so hot and popular that people wait in line for a long time to buy one. They have spread around the world, though not necessarily in their true (labor-intensive) form. My sister-in-law said that she tried the Spanish cronut and it was essentially deep-fried croissant (laminated) dough cut into the shape of a donut and dipped in sugar.

The Japanese are also in on this whole cronut gig, as you can see by the screenshot I've put above this paragraph. The ad acknowledges, incidentally, that these were born in New York. The Mister Donut Croissant Donut is essentially the same thing that my sister-in-law tried only sliced in half with various types of cream sandwiched in the middle and some icing on the top. It is still not a proper cronut, but closer than what was available in that Madrid bakery.

This post is not about cronuts, but rather about chips, but, as is often the case when I start in one place and end in another, I have a point to make. My point is about what sort of food fads spread like wildfire around the world, like the cronut, and what sort somehow never get off the ground. In my opinion, yuzu koshoo is one of those flavors that, if people knew what it was, would take off if it got the same sort of exposure and press and exposure that Srircha sauce, cronuts, churros, and wasabi tend to get. It is one of my favorite spicy flavors from Japan and it is very hard to find in American.

It was with considerable delight that I bought this 58-gram/~ 2 oz.-bag of Calbee yuzu koshoo chips for $1.99 at San Jose's Nijiya market. I was looking forward to the bright citrus notes of the yuzu and the spicy heat of the chili pepper. Calbee makes one of the best basic potato chips in the world. They're thin, light, crispy, and have a fresh taste that I have not encountered with chips in America. The basic chip can't be beat in my opinion. The question was whether or not the flavoring lived up to its potential. The answer is a mixed one.

When I opened the bag, the first thing I smelled was vinegar. I have to say that, in my limited experience with yuzu koshoo snacks, that was not something I tended to find. The first bite yields a little bit of the citrus flavor of the yuzu and a more potent flavor of vinegar. The chili pepper is hardly there at all and the deeper, more savory flavors of the spice don't come out unless you eat more of them.

These chips are good, very good. I'd put them in the top 15% of chips I have ever eaten, but I wouldn't put them up in the top 50% of yuzu koshoo snacks that I've had. I think these are well worth a try, but I wouldn't say they're worth zeroing in on and seeking out with all of your Popeye-level might. If you see them and you like salt and vinegar chips, these are a refreshing change of pace and a damn fine chip (as long as you like thin and light ones and not thick, greasy, kettle-style ones). I liked these, but I wanted to love them.

1 comment:

Chad said...

OMG, yuzu koshoo chips sound super tasty! My friend brought some yuzu koshoo sauce for us to season our food with here at work. It's SO super tasty. Awesome.