REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips

Lay's Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips

I’m fairly new to Indian food.

Up until a year ago, I basically feared it. I didn’t want any part of it. I respect your beliefs, but no beef?! I had beef with your lack of beef!

Then I found out my local joint had a $12 lunch buffet. Twelve bucks? Buffet? You know I ain’t got beef with a good value, so I bucked up and gave it a shot.

It was great. Indian food is great. Who needs beef?

One of the dishes they eased me in with was Chicken Tikka Masala, which until a couple months ago I called “Tikka Mar-sala” like it was cooked with an Italian wine.

I’m fairly new, folks.

For those who aren’t familiar, Tikka Masala is a dish made from chunks of spiced meat served in a tomato and coriander sauce. The recipe varies from site to site, so I’ll just go with the spices listed in the ingredients — turmeric, cumin, paprika, tomato, onion, and garlic powders.

The chips are orange, so they look the part. They definitely smell the part. I wouldn’t say Indian food has the most pleasant aroma in the world, unless you enjoy the scent of an entire spice rack hitting your nostrils at once. If you’re familiar with Wise’s BBQ chips, I was immediately put in mind of those. With all due respect to Wise, they’re my least favorite basic BBQ chip on the market.

Honestly, these taste like Wise BBQ with a bit more kick. There’s a lot going on with these chips.

Chili powder isn’t one of the spices listed, but I tasted a chili element. It’s nothing too overpowering, but it builds up the more you eat. The back of my tongue was pretty hot when I was done and a fiery aftertaste lingered. That’s neutralized a bit by a faint sweetness (which might not be the right word) that I imagine was from the coconut so commonly used in Indian cuisine. This comes through more so in the actual dish than the chip, but it’s there if you look for it.

So yeah, the flavor was reminiscent of the dish. It was the texture that bugged me.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips 2

Most of the Indian food I’ve had has been soft and mushy – tender meats, rice, curries, etc. These are the hardest chips known to man, so that contrasting texture choice seems odd to me. I think these would’ve been better as normal chips, but I can admit I have a bias. I’ve never been a huge fan of kettle chips. I don’t hate them, but I’ve always found kettle chips greasier, and fear for the health of my molars while eating them.

So if you’re a fan of Indian food, or would like to ease yourself into becoming a fan, these are a valiant effort from Lay’s. I wouldn’t recommend eating too many in one sitting as these left me with…what’s the best way to say this without being gross? Later in the day I was reminded that I had Tikka Masala chips, if you catch my drift.

You’ll burp. You’re probably gonna burp. These chips will make you burp. You’re probably gonna get some indigestion. You might wanna eat these in the privacy of your own home.

One last thing, I thought this Lay’s Passport to Flavor gimmick was a tie-in with the Rio Olympics, but the bag doesn’t seem to reflect that in any way. I guess if that were the case, these chips would be called “Zika Masala.”

That’s right I.O.C., I went there. We’ve got beef.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 350 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: A decent representation of Tikka Masala. Nice kick. Very faint coconut. Getting over my fear of Indian food. $12 buffets.
Cons: Not nearly as good as the dish it emulates. Aftertaste lingers. Basically a BBQ variant. Kettle cooked. Rio conditions. Cornball jokes. Keep gum handy.

REVIEW: Lay’s Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips

Lay's Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips

I’ve had a number of Lay’s potato chip flavors from China, like Sweet Barbecue Pork, Fresh Shrimp, Fun Wasabi Shrimp, Spicy Green Peppercorn Fish, and Numb & Spicy Hot Pot. They all had the same vibe to them. They were spicy, sweet, and unusual to the point where I’m not sure if I liked them.

I can say the same about Lay’s Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips.

I imagine there are some of you who aren’t familiar with Szechuan Chicken because it’s not a dish that’s ever been available at Panda Express (the chain did have a Szechuan fish dish). According to the internet, Szechuan cooking involves heavy use of garlic and Szechuan pepper.

To get the flavor and spice of the regional Chinese dish, Lay’s could’ve gone with some generic pepper mixed with other ingredients, but they went with the real deal — roasted Szechuan pepper. They also went with an ingredient called “Natural Szechuan Wok Type Flavor.” Yes! I’ve always wanted to know what wok tastes like!

Lay's Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips 2

The chips look darker than your standard Lay’s, and some areas are even darker, making them look like they’re slightly burnt. Maybe that’s from the soy sauce that’s listed in the ingredients, or maybe it’s the wok type flavor. They’re both dark. Every chip also has specks of parsley.

They have an unusual sweet soy aroma that’s will turn off unadventurous snackers. As for the chip’s flavor, it come in waves. First, there’s a strong dose of soy sauce and garlic. Then there’s a slight sweetness that’s followed by pepper. As I ate the chips, there were moments when its flavor reminded me of wasabi. There’s also an underlying greasy flavor that I can only assume is the “chicken.” Thanks to the pepper, the chips have some spiciness to them, but it tingles more than burns. But I think if you have an aversion to spicy foods you won’t like these in your mouth.

To be honest, Lay’s Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips are not a flavor I’d buy again. It’s not gross, but unlike most other potato chip flavors, I won’t mindlessly eat them. I’ll have a few and then say, “I’m good.” Out of all four Passport to Flavor varieties, this is my least favorite.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 7 3/4 oz bag
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Edible. Adventurous taste buds.
Cons: Least favorite of the Lay’s Passport to Flavor varieties. Flavor not good enough for me to mindlessly eat. Those who don’t like spicy food might not like them. What’s wok flavor?

REVIEW: Lay’s Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips

Lay's Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips

I recently went to a Brazilian steakhouse and it was one of the best dining experiences of my life. Servers there bring cuts of various meats to you every few minutes, like brisket, tri-tip, bacon-wrapped sirloin, chicken wings, chicken hearts, lamb, sausage, pork loin, and many more. But my favorite was the picanha.

Picanha is a cut of beef towards the rear of the cow and it’s popular in Brazil. Technically, it’s part of a cow’s butt, but it’s so wonderful. The picanha I gobbled up had a great meaty flavor, was tender, and I’m drooling just thinking about it.

If you’ve never been to a Brazilian steakhouse, servers bring the glistening meat to you on skewers and they slice off a piece, which you take with tongs. But after tasting picanha, every time a server brought it back, I always yelled, “I wanna…more of the picanha!”

Okay, I didn’t scream that out loud, but my taste buds probably were.

But this is not a Yelp review for Brazilian steakhouses, this is a review for Lay’s Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips, which is part of their Passport to Flavor line the brand is offering this summer.

These are not just steak-flavored chips. They also have seasoning that’s supposed to tastes like chimichurri sauce. If you’re wondering how these chips get their steak flavor, they get it from, according to the ingredients list, beef extract and beef fat. There’s also milk protein concentrate and skim milk listed, but I’m not a food scientist, so I’m not sure if they contribute to the steak flavor.

Lay's Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips 2

To get the chimichurri sauce, the chips are seasoned with several spices and ingredients. There’s salt (duh), oregano, parsley, dried garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and onion powder, some of which you can see on every chip.

The chips have a herby and meaty aroma, but they also smell slightly sweet. Their flavor does remind me of steak, but not the awesomeness of the picanha I experienced at a Brazilian steakhouse. Along with the meatiness, there’s also a bit of pepperiness, a bit of herbs, and a wee bit of sweetness. All together those flavor characteristics create something that tastes like steak and chimichurri sauce. While not as enjoyable as eating actual picanha, I think it’s a mighty fine tasting potato chip and it does a decent job at trying to replicate the meat.

Along with seasoning inconsistencies from chip to chip, there was something about the flavor that bothered me. I kept thinking to myself that it tasted familiar, and I kept shoving chips into my mouth to figure it out. Then it hit me. They kind of taste like a meat sauce one would find on spaghetti. It’s not a bad thing and if Lay’s ever decides to come out with spaghetti-flavored chips they already have the recipe.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 7 3/4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pleasant meaty, herby flavor. It also kind of tastes like spaghetti meat sauce. Actual picanha at Brazilian steakhouses.
Cons: Doesn’t make me as happy as actual picanha does. Seasoning inconsistencies from chip to chip. Chicken hearts.

REVIEW: Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero

Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero

Believe it or not, the habanero was once the world’s hottest chili pepper. But thanks to botany and hot, steamy plant-on-plant action, which produced spicier peppers, the habanero has been relegated to a lower heat status and has also dropped in rank on the Cool Chili Pepper Name List.

It’s been overtaken by the Ghost Pepper, Carolina Reaper, Infinity Chili, Komodo Dragon Chili Pepper, Super Duper Red Hot Chili Peppers, Naga Viper, and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion.

Oh, one of those isn’t a real chili pepper name, but the rest are real. Guess which one.

And those hotter peppers are not slightly ahead on the Scoville scale, a measurement of chili pepper heat, they’re like Golden State Warriors-ahead of the once mighty pepper. While the habanero can muster 100,000-350,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units), many of the peppers I’ve listed above go beyond (raise pinky to mouth) one million SHU.

While the habanero no longer has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s found a place on many crunchy snacks. Pringles. Chex Mix. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. And now these Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero snacks.

Well, actually, it should’ve gone. Cheetos Crunchy. Pringles. Chex Mix. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. The order should’ve been different because these cheesy, spicy snacks are a rerelease, originally on shelves in 2010. But they’re back again to be the “Official Snack of the Mexican National Team,” who probably didn’t have a say in the matter.

Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero 2

The orange and red crunchy corn puffs look like what I imagine ends up on Lucifer’s finger after digging his nose. Yes, I’m saying they look like devil’s boogers. But what tasty buggers they are.

The level of heat these bring is below the nerve stinging spiciness of Cheetos Flamin’ Hot. With these Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero I can munch my way though many of them without hesitation, but I can tolerate only so much with any Flamin’ Hot snack. But I’m not giving the go ahead sign for those who don’t like the spicy.

Since the habanero seasoning isn’t tear-inducing for me, I can taste the cheesy, peppery, and smoky flavoring on each crunchy corn puff. They’re also a little tomato-y and oniony. But a kick of lime is what makes this snack’s flavor stand out. It gives these Cheetos Crunchy a taste that’s more complex than just cheesy and spicy. And I have to say I prefer the flavor of these over Flamin’ Hot.

Sadly, this flavor will go back into the Cheetos flavor vault once the Olympics are done and, maybe, pop up again years from now to promote something else. But I don’t want that to be the case. I want it to be a permanent flavor.

But just like the habanero pepper had to accept it wouldn’t always be the hottest pepper in the world, I have to accept I won’t be eating Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero for a while.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 160 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: Purchased on eBay for more than the price on the packaging
Size: 8.5 oz bag
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Really spicy, but not REALLY spicy. Complex flavor that’s cheesy, spicy, smoky, and a little limey. Better than Cheetos Crunchy Flamin’ Hot.
Cons: Difficult to find. Will eventually go back into the Cheetos flavor vault. If you do not like spicy foods, do not eat this.

REVIEW: Lay’s Beer ‘n Brats Potato Chips

Lay's Beer 'n Brats Potato Chips

With it being cookout season, I imagine many of you will find yourselves outside with a cold beer in one hand, a nice bratwurst in the other hand, not enough sunscreen on your body, and way too much bug repellant because those reports on the evening news about the Zika virus are freaking you out.

Frito-Lay is celebrating summer with the rollout of Lay’s Beer ’n Brats Potato Chips, which is a flavor that I imagine is causing some of you to spew profanities at your screen right now because it was your entry for the Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest.

Full disclosure: I am not a beer drinker.

Full disclosure 2 Electric Boogaloo: But I am a beer-flavored potato chip eater.

I’m a huge fan of Kettle Brand’s Cheddar Beer Potato Chips. I voted for it during Kettle Brand’s first People’s Choice vote in 2005. I love its combination of maltiness and tangy cheesiness, and how those flavors really popped. Oh, God, I want some right now.

So how do these Lay’s chips get their beeriness and bratiness?

With Beer ’n Brats seasoning, of course. No really. That’s what it’s called in the ingredients list. Thankfully the seasoning is broken down. Here are some of the highlights in no particular order: salt (of course), onion powder, cheddar cheese, brown sugar, sugar, yeast extract, whey protein concentrate (imagine me flexing right now), spices, butter, Romano cheese, chicken broth, chicken powder, buttermilk, chicken fat, dijon mustard, natural extractives of beer, and beer solids.

What’s a beer solid? It sounds like a favor that’s sealed when two people drink beer with their drinking arms intertwined. It’s not, but the knowledgeable ingredients list also breaks down what beer solids are — malted barley, corn syrup, hops, and yeast.

Lay's Beer 'n Brats Potato Chips 2

The Lay’s Beer ’n Brats Potato Chips have an aroma that smells like the undercarriage of a lawnmower that just ran over an herb garden and New York City hot dog carts. It’s sweet, herby, and mustard-y. My nose likes it and my nose also thinks it smells somewhat similar to turkey and stuffing potato chips I’ve had in the past.

A beer-like flavor registered once I put them into my mouth. But quickly after that it got a little more complex. It’s slight herby, there’s a mild onion flavor, the cheese gave off a slight funk, and the chicken ingredients gave the chips a greasiness that tastes like a bratwurst. But overall, the chip leans more towards a bratwurst than a beer, and that taste lingered in my mouth long after I ate them. They have a unique flavor and my palate enjoyed them, but they don’t make me say, “Don’t you dare take these off shelves or else I will cut you!”

As much as I liked these chips, I could see how others might think they’re gross. Herbs, onion, funk, and grease don’t sound like an awesome combination to some, but I guess, much like beer, it’s an acquired taste.

Thanks to my pal Candy Hunting for sending this bag to me. If you have an Instagram account you can follow her @candyhunting.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: N/A
Size: 7 3/4 oz bag
Purchased at: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Initial flavor is beer-like. It also tastes somewhat like a brat. Complex flavor. Unique flavor. Kettle Brand Cheddar Beer Potato Chips.
Cons: Some might find its flavor off-putting. I wish the flavor popped a bit more. Might be difficult to find. Zika virus.

QUICK REVIEW: Cheesy Quesadilla Pringles

Cheesy Quesadilla Pringles

I imagine putting together a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme is like brain surgery when compared with the effort it takes to make a cheesy quesadilla. Making one is easier than typing qasadia quasadila quesadila quesadea quesadilla for a first time speller of the word. It involves these simple steps: warm up a soft tortilla in a skillet, sprinkle on a lot of cheese, wait for cheese to melt, fold tortilla in half, and eat.

But Pringles, the Master of Potato Flake Compression, has given us a much simpler way to experience the simple dish — Cheesy Quesadilla Pringles.

It’s not a new flavor, it originally came out years ago, but it hasn’t been on shelves for a while and is currently exclusive to Walgreens. So you can pick up a can while you’re picking up your prescription for something that only you and your doctor know about. Oh, and don’t forget to take your Walgreens Balance Rewards Card. This paragraph was not brought to you by Walgreens at the corner happy & healthy.

The flavor of these crisps is not what I would consider bold or cheese quesadilla-like. There’s a light cheesiness with an equally light pepperiness. I know what these are supposed to taste like, but it doesn’t fire my neurons in a way that makes me think cheesy quesadilla. Instead, all I can think about is watered down chile con queso.

Cheesy Quesadilla Pringles 2

Maybe the flavors are mild because Pringles wanted to recreate the flavor dampening abilities of soft tortillas. Or maybe the seasoning robot in the Pringles factory was set to level 4 by accident.

Overall, Cheesy Quesadilla Pringles are adequate. I don’t think it’s one of those “accidentally eat more than half a can in one sitting” flavors, like sour cream and onion or original. I guess what I’m trying to say is if you see it while picking up your medication at Walgreens, it’s probably not worth a try.

Disclosure: I received a free sample from Pringles in return for an honest review. Receiving the sample did not influence my review.

Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 5.96 oz can
Purchased at: Available at Walgreens
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 ounce) 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.