Historically I have never been a huge potato chip person, but over the past few years, Lay's has turned me into a serious enthusiast through its genius Do Us a Flavor contest. While people like me abuse the virtual chip generator to create flavors like Otter Fetus and My Ex’s Diseased, Rotting Soul, saner minds ultimately prevail and give us real-world flavors like Wasabi Ginger and Biscuits and Gravy.
Now that the Lay’s flavor lab has been pushed to the limit and it knows the veracity of our crazy potato chip lust, the company is embarking on culinary adventures of its own. Last week, it released a limited Around the World series, with four flavors far beyond sour cream and onion. I tried them all, of course, because I'm powerless against Lay's marketing. Then I convinced my editor to let me write about it here so I could justify it as a work-related sacrifice. Writing about food is a very tough job, you know.
I thought this was going to be chimichurri-flavored — that sexy Latin steak sauce made of chopped parsley, lemon, oil and garlic. But it's chimichurri- and steak-flavored, which is… weird. Steak is my favorite food on Earth, but I don't want to eat it in powdered form. Hell, I don't even want to know how they created a powder form. If I need to know anything, I need to know who at Frito-Lay said, “Screw plain-ass chimichurri chips! Someone get me the powdered meat!” Because that dude needs a serious talking-to.
Fun fact: Tikka masala is not, in fact, Indian. It was invented by a Pakistani chef in Glasgow, Scotland, which makes it the British equivalent of American-made fortune cookies. But does anyone really have a problem with either of those things? If anything, more foods should be able to predict the future, and more foods should so perfectly translate into potato chip form.
Tikka masala is pretty much heavily spiced tomato cream sauce, so if you can stretch your imagination, these chips are kinda like Anglo-Indian pizza. And I think I would like them more if I liked tikka masala, which I can no longer eat after a friend told me it tastes like part of the female anatomy, and now I am horrified by it. (If you have firsthand knowledge to the contrary, please let me know in the comments, because I’d really like to both eat Indian food and be able to look his wife in the eye again.)
Literally have no idea how I spent the past three years asking them for an otter fetus-flavored chip rather than tzatziki. Tzatziki sauce is my favorite, and now I can eat it with chips that also taste like tzatziki! I can crumble them onto sandwiches! I can eat them in the car or in the shower without the usual mess dip makes! Hot damn, I love the future.
I'm one of those assholes who poo-poos pedantic “American” Chinese food. I'm spoiled by living blocks away from not one but two Chinatowns. I like real Sichuan food made with tons of mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns. Those are very, very special things: They're not actually peppercorns, and they're not actually spicy — they contain a chemical that makes your tongue tingle but not burn. They are intensely flavorful but woefully misunderstood, which is why I was nearly positive Lay’s would mess this up. I expected them to do what every American company does when it wants to make something “Chinese” — douse it with a ton of sickly sweet General Tso’s sauce and call it a day.
But they didn’t! These are actually really, really good — not mouth-numbing, not full Sichuan, but a solid baby step to the good stuff if all you know is P.F. Chang's. Here’s hoping next year Lay's can go a little further and give us Chinese chips like Chili Oil Beef Tendon, which kicks the living crap out of Sweet and Sour Chicken.
These potato chip flavors are currently available on store shelves.
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