Pepsi and Chicken flavor, Chicken and Pizza flavor, these are not Willy Wonka’s latest ‘meal in a chewing gum’ varieties but just two of the bizarre kinds of chips you will find in a typical Chinese convenience store.
American brand Lay’s have the widest variety of unusual flavors, but the Chinese are not to be out-done and there are a number of Asian brands producing their own weird combinations. After trawling local Seven Eleven stores I took the taste test – with a twist: After trying each flavor for myself I invited my colleagues to taste each packet of chips, but kept the brand and flavor hidden. Here are the results:
Pepsi and Chicken flavor:
The packet translates as Powerful Pepsi Chicken, so I had high hopes for my first packet of Asian chips. What a disappointment. I couldn’t taste chicken at all and the faint taste of Pepsi came as an unwelcome after-taste, like a soda-induced burp. Those who didn’t know the flavor before they tried it said they could only taste salt and a mild chicken flavor, although they agreed the Pepsi taste came later. Powerful, huh?
Numb and Spicy Hot Pot flavor:
This I was looking forward to. After eating one chip the flavors were not as strong as I would have liked, being a fan of hot food. A sudden squeal of “Oh my god they’re so spicy!” from across the room told me that my unwitting colleague did not agree. After about half a packet I understood what she meant, these chips are hot. Definitely worth a try if you’re a fan of spicy snacks.
Fun Wasabi Shrimp flavor:
I was unsure where the ‘fun’ part came into this flavor, were the chips going to leap out of the packet and dance? Also, having a strong dislike of seafood meant I was more than a little reluctant to try these chips, but hey, there’s one way to find out. Turns out, I didn’t need to worry. The taste of wasabi was so strong that I would never have guessed the flavor was supposed to include shrimp. Colleagues agreed, although they said they also noticed a strong taste of mayonnaise, which ruined the experience for them. So if you ever want wasabi mayonnaise flavor chips, you know what to look for.
Chicken and Pizza flavor:
This idea seemed just as strange to me as combining Pepsi and chicken. Why chicken and pizza? Why not just chicken? Pizza flavored chips are weird on their own but to go that stretch further just seemed unneccessary to me. Surely some flavors just can’t be combined? I was right. It tasted like manufacturer ‘Ya! TuDou’ had tried so hard to cram different tastes into one packet that it had the opposite effect, I couldn’t tell what any of the flavors were supposed to be. Those in the office who hadn’t been shown the packaging had no idea what tastes were going on in their mouths either. But then, even if they could distinguish the different flavors, who would have guessed that someone combined chicken and pizza into chips?
Spicy Green Peppercorn Fish flavor:
This was the first weird flavor I noticed when I arrived in Beijing. At this time, I was used to seeing flavors like salted, cheese and onion and roast chicken. Apart from being the longest name for a flavor of chips that I’ve ever heard, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how this combination would work. Surprisingly, they were really good. Again, the fish flavor was non existent so if you’re a seafood fan these might not be for you. The mix of spices and prominent peppercorn taste gave Numb and Spice Hot Pot stiff competition for my favourite Chinese chips.
Brazilian Barbeque flavor:
Although the flavor itself is not particularly unusual, the chips are just plain weird. I picked them up because of the picture of peas on the packet, assuming this was the flavor. After having a colleague translate the ingredients to me he said that they were barbecue flavor, made with pea flour, corn starch and “some kind of meat.” The chips are made from such a weird mix of ingredients that we figured they deserve a place in the blog. After eyeing the ingredient list (despite it being completely illegible to me), curiosity got the better of me and I opened the packet. Instantly, I wished I’d trusted my first instinct. The chips were unusually crunchy, somewhere on the teeth-cracking scale scale between a stale cereal bar and chewing a brick, with the same amount of flavor. Definitely the worst type of chips on the list.
Hot and Sour Fish Soup flavor:
The final chip flavor in my experience is another of Lay’s fishy fusions. After my experience with the previous seafood flavors, I had assumed I wouldn’t taste any fish in this packet so I dived right in. I was very wrong. The mix of tomato and fish flavorings were an assault on my taste buds and if I hadn’t been in a working environment i would probably have spat them into the nearest bin. Although being a seafood-hater I wasn’t sure if the chips actually tasted bad or if it was my personal preferences that was the problem. So again, I made some unsuspecting co-workers taste the chips (without telling them the flavor beforehand, as usual). Most people in the office seemed to enjoy the flavor, despite one staff writer insisting that the chips were “seaweed and soy sauce” flavor. Maybe that’s what Lay’s should try next.