It's a fact that the U.S. is far inferior to many Asian countries when it comes to chip flavors. A bag of potato chips with the faint taste and smell of cheesy garlic bread is about as adventurous as we get. Where are the sweet and sour, spicy, salty pork Lay's?
Well, what if you could get your hands them right here in L.A.? Would you munch?
Silom Supermarket in Thai Town is a local go-to spot for fresh curries, Kaffir lime leaves and a slew of other hard-to-find items, but it also happens to be a chip lover's paradise.
In a long grocery aisle filled with cookies, crackers and other brightly colored bags of snacks is a collection of Lays potato chips from Thailand. The shelf is full of blue, green, red, white and pink bags that look like American bags of Lay's, but not quite. A closer look at the green bag reveals it's not sour cream and onion, it's nori seaweed.
One deep red bag doesn't even have a flavor written on it in English. It looks like BBQ, but there's a picture of what looks like meatballs and Thai writing. We had a Thai friend translate the flavor as sweet and sour, spicy, salty pork.
We took it upon ourselves to perform the public service of trying all eight flavors. Here's a rundown of all the wacky bags you can get at Shilom, in order of deliciousness, rated on a scale from 1 to 5 (5 being amazing).
Sweet and sour, spicy, salty pork: These chips scored a 5 and basically embody everything you want from a Thai dish, in a chip. They didn't exactly taste like pork, but they were sour, spicy, sweet and salty. Each bite brought to mind fresh cilantro, lemongrass, chiles, sugar and fish sauce. It's a mouthful of flavors and you won't be able to put the bag down until you've eaten every last crumb.
Nori seaweed: The seaweed flavor hits the tastebuds with each bite, earning this flavor a 5. After a handful or so of the seaweed-flecked chips, they start to taste like a sushi roll filled with imitation crab, wrapped in seaweed.
Hot and spicy crab: These could have been hotter, but they still earned a 3.5 rating. The chips had an indistinguishable "fishy" flavor but left us wanting more of a punch. The flavor also oddly made us want some ranch dressing.
Lobster hot plate: For anyone who has grown up around Asian snacks, you'll recognize the flavor of Calbee brand shrimp chips. Close your eyes and you may think you're eating them, with the addition of a hint of seaweed flavor and just a touch of heat. These chips earned a 3.5 rating.
Hot chili squid: We didn't taste any squid, and we didn't get any heat, but they did have a redeeming shrimp chip flavor deserving of a 3 rating.
Chili and cheese: This combination isn't exactly foreign but it was worth a try. They tasted like someone sprinkled a couple of morsels of chili powder onto some Kraft orange cheese powder and dusted it on the chips. Some spice added a nice bite and they were oddly addictive. We gave them a 3.
Salmon? The bag has no flavor written on it in English, only a picture of a plate of salmon covered in white sauce and a woman carrying cooking utensils. When we first opened the bag, a couple of whiffs brought to mind smoked salmon on cream cheese and bagels, but the smell quickly dissipated. The chips themselves were salty, but not much salmon flavor there. They earned a 2 rating.
Sweet basil: These chips were the worst of the bunch in terms of tasting like their designated flavor name. There was no basil flavor. They did taste "herby," but there was no one flavor that stuck out to anyone. And instead of any sweetness, there was heat. Kind of a fail, so we gave these a 1 rating.
Know where to get weird snacks? Let us know and we'll get munching.
Are you an adventurous snacker? Me too. Follow me on Twitter: @Jenn_Harris_