Orlando is a diverse and inclusive city with a huge Asian-American community, which means we are lucky to have so many terrific restaurants and markets representing our Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Filipino, and Indian neighbors and their cuisines. Most of our Asian markets are located along Colonial Drive, with good ones on both the east and west sides of downtown Orlando. They are treasure troves of ingredients you can’t find at Publix and other mainstream American supermarkets, along with high-quality produce, meat, and seafood that are often cheaper than anywhere else. And of course, the snacks alone are often worth the trip.
My readers know I often review potato chips and other snacks as Tight Chips features, so this is the first of what will surely be several write-ups of potato chips with unique flavors from the Asian markets.
I chose these particular chips to review here because they are all savory flavors: various meats, chicken, and egg-flavored chips. And please note that I tried these and wrote down my opinions over the course of several months, rather than ripping all the bags open and gorging on them in one sitting, as soon as I got home from the market.
Salted egg-flavored chips have a bit of a fan following, so I had to try these salted egg Lay’s from Thailand. I believe I found these at Eastside Asian Market in East Orlando.
They were salty and eggy (mostly a yolk flavor). I don’t know what else I was expecting, but this was the only flavor that had a lot of built-up hype ahead of time.
The salted egg flavor above was much better than these other egg-flavored Lay’s, which were more of a thick, ridged chip (kind of like “Wavy Lay’s” and much thicker than Ruffles). These had a strong and very dry egg yolk aroma and flavor. I wouldn’t bother getting these again, and I even forgot to take a photo of the actual chips, so I guess the yolk was on me.
I must have gotten these Roasted Chicken Wing Lay’s on the same visit to New Golden Sparkling Supermarket on West Colonial Drive in Orlando’s Pine Hills neighborhood, because they are the same thick, ridged style, and I also forgot to take a photo of the open bag. They were savory and salty, containing “chicken powder” and “chicken oil,” but I detected soy sauce more than anything strongly chickeny. I think I just don’t care for the thicker texture of these kinds of ridged “Wavy” Lay’s.
I couldn’t resist being lured in by this eye-catching bag design, only to discover this was Lay’s Mexican Chicken Tomato flavor. Now I’ve enjoyed plenty of Mexican dishes that included chicken and tomatoes among the ingredients, but I don’t automatically match them up in my head. These were definitely more tomatoey than chickeny, and disappointingly not spicy at all.
So which came first, the chicken-flavored chips or the egg-flavored chips? I have no idea, but that sounded like a Scott Joseph joke, now that I’ve written it out.
These next Lay’s chips have a braised pork flavor. The bag has a picture of a bearded fellow who looks like most of the guys you see in comic book stores, who usually have strong opinions about nerdy topics and demand to be heard. This is the logo of Formosa Chang, a Taiwanese restaurant chain that began with a single food stall in a market, but now has 30 locations in Taiwan and a few in Japan as well. Just like Lay’s did some co-branding with American restaurants last year, with flavors inspired by their signature dishes, they must have worked out a similar deal with Formosa Chang for one of their more popular dishes.
Braised pork sounded like a really great savory chip flavor, and I love the Taiwanese food I’ve tried at Mei’s Kitchen and Ms. Tea’s Bento, both in East Orlando. But these were pretty bland and unmemorable. I would love to try the real version of this dish from a Formosa Chang restaurant.
I didn’t even look at the label on the back of this bag of Lay’s until I got them home, but even though I was expecting some kind of sausage flavor from the look of the image below, this is a “spicy stewed flavor.”
Once again, this was a nondescript flavor, and look at how light they went on the seasoning on these chips! They didn’t even taste spicy, and I was looking forward to feeling some kind of burn.
I have finally moved past Lay’s for now, to review two chips from Oishi, a very good snack company based in the Philippines. Oishi products always have good, strong flavors. These are sweet and spicy potato chips that did not disappoint, after most of the above Lay’s flavors did.
Oishi is much more liberal with the seasoning!
And finally, these are Oishi “Ribbed Cracklings” (ribbed for her pleasure?), which are salt and vinegar flavors, or as I always call them, “salty vinnies.” These are not potato chips, since they are made of wheat flour and tapioca starch. They also aren’t pork rinds, despite being called “cracklings,” but they are not vegetarian because they contain fish sauce.
These are AWESOME. I saved the best for last because they have a terrific texture — crispy but not crunchy, sort of airy, kind of a middle ground between crunchy Cheetos and puffy Cheez Doodles, if you will. If you’ve ever tried shrimp chips from an Asian market, it’s the same kind of texture. They are addictive. And if you love vinegar as much as I do, they are really intense with the vinegar powder, giving them a powerfully pungent, puckery punch. If you don’t already like salt and vinegar chips, definitely spare yourself some torture! But if you do, face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot.
Don’t worry, folks — I’ll publish a new restaurant review next week, but I like to pepper in the Grocery Grails features from time to time to keep things interesting, including the spinoffs Cutting the Mustard (mustard reviews), The ‘Dines List (canned sardine reviews), and Tight Chips (snack chip reviews). I swear I don’t go out to eat as much as you probably think I do, but I sure love grocery shopping and discovering interesting new foods at the store.