Sunday, September 28, 2008

Vegips (Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Chips)

Vegetables are good. Sweet potato and pumpkin are even better when you're thinking of vegetables. In fact, I often think of sweet potato as the "candy" of vegetables. When I saw this bag of "Vegips", I thought it'd be tasty and nutritious. The claim on the package is that they are "light and delicious". It also lets you know that these are real vegetable slices rather than reconstituted vegetable product (a la Pringles). That'll teach me a lesson in checking the nutrition information on the back of the bag before buying the product.

The "chips" part of Vegips is out in full force. These are not dehydrated or baked healthy chips. They are deep fried like the dreaded potato chip. This small bag (45 grams/1. 6 oz.) contains 16.2 grams of fat, 26 grams of carbohydrate, and 4 mg of salt. This means they weigh in pretty heavy calorically at 256 calories for this bag which one can easily polish off in one sitting. To off-set the fat, you get a paltry 1.6 grams of protein and I'm guessing whatever nutritional gains from the sweet potatoes and pumpkin survive the frying process.

The bag contains about 10 of each type of chip in whole or in fragments. When you open it, it smells like squash. The pumpkin is definitely the more flavorful and dominant chip among the two. It's important to note that Japanese pumpkin, kaboucha (かぼちゃ), is not the same as American pumpkin. It tastes more squash-like and the flavor is a bit more intense. They're both good, but a different taste experience.

I tried a pumpkin chip first and it tasted nicely of pumpkin but there was an oddly familiar taste with it. I couldn't pin it down at first and then I realized that it's oil. In fact, it tastes a bit like "old" oil. The chip is super crispy and a little thick but not dense. It fact, it breaks off very nicely. I think that the oil flavor is so strong because they must be saturated with oil to get a proper texture. After eating a few, the oil flavor tends to become more muted. This might be because it seems to coat your tongue. I found that there is a bit of a residue in my mouth after eating these chips.

I was looking forward to the sweet potato more than the pumpkin and it had the same good, crunchy texture as the pumpkin chip and was cut slightly thinner. The first chip didn't seem to have much sweet potato flavor and seemed more like a regular chip but after eating a few, the sweet potato flavor emerged more strongly. The oil taste seemed less oppressive, but still present. The sweet potato chip loses a bit more in the translation from real vegetable to chip in my opinion. I found myself wishing the chip had retained more of its sweet potato essence. Both types of chips are very lightly salted and I think the sweet potato one probably suffers a bit for not having more salt. A bit more seasoning would probably give the flavor more definition.

These chips contain very few ingredients. Essentially, they consist of sweet potatoes, vegetable oil, and pumpkin. Note that the ingredients are in order from highest volume to lowest. That means there is more oil than pumpkin! There are no chemicals and no extra flavoring and that would be refreshing if they weren't so full of fat. A bag of these cost me 168 yen ($1.58 USD), which is slightly expensive for such a small portion. If these weren't so fatty, I'd happily have them regularly despite the oily aftertaste. They really are much tastier and more flavorful than regular chips.

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