Thursday, January 15, 2009
Yuzu Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Potato Chips
If you spend any reasonable amount of time in Japan, you'll notice that flavors come in and out of fashion. Some flavors stay after their run of popularity and others vanish. Right now, we're riding a wave of yuzu flavored foods. First, there was the yuzu KitKat and recently I spied some yuzu sembei (rice crackers) and now these chips. I'm sure there is more out there and more yet to come. In case you forgot, or don't know, yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that is a little like lemon in terms of how it is used. It is frequently added to sauces (including soy sauce, or as it is called in Japanese, shoyu) and used for dipping other foods.
Yuzu is pretty flexible and can be used in both sweet and savory food effectively. Despite the fact that it's sour and can be bitter, it's one of the more approachable flavors for Western folks because it tends to be used in relative moderation when flavoring foods, so I bought this bag with relatively positive expectations.
The chips smell a bit like lemon, pepper, and vinegar. I'm sure that they smell just like yuzu to Japanese folks, but I'm trying to frame their scent with Western nostrils. They taste tangy and citrus-like with an extremely mild bitter aftertaste. The soy sauce element is quite subdued and mainly manifests itself as a lingering "meaty" taste. It adds a bit of savory balance to the tart yuzu flavor.
These chips are flavored with a lot of classic Japanese flavors. Besides yuzu and soy sauce, there is also katsuoboshi (a sort of fish flake) and kombu (a type of seaweed) flavoring in these. The only thing I think I'd like to see is a little more salt on these.
Most chips work best when paired with food as an accompaniment, but these are the kind of thing with a distinctive flavor and are good eaten alone with just a beverage. They're very good, but not the sort of good that makes you want to scarf them down. I think that these would be enjoyed by anyone who likes salt and vinegar chips or lemon, though they may seem a bit strange to some folks. I'd definitely sample these again if they don't vanish forever once the yuzu fad is over.