Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vitasia Wasabi Chips

            What follows is a first-encounter-with-Wasabi story, followed by a review.  Many people have mixed feelings about Wasabi, the Japanese horse-radish like plant that is often served as paste to accompany sushi.  Many lust for its intensly spicy sensation, it’s flamethrower like effect on the nostrils, its exotic mustard-like aroma.  But many have been hurt by Wasabi.  Badly.  So badly, they swear off Wasabi and believe it their mission to shelter all innocents from its piquant embrace.  This is a tragedy, but even more terrible is their spreading of these repressive anti-wasabi teachings, thereby preventing others from realizing their own spicy Aspian bliss.

Wasabi plant being converted into Wasabi
paste.  A dissapointing fact: most
'wasabi' products (paste, powder, etc.) are
 not actually made from wasabi, but rather
 a mix of horseradish, mustard powder
 and green dye. Like the characters in
the Matrix, we have no idea what reality
 tastes like; but at least the approximation
 is good...
            My history with wasabi began ten years ago, while I was working on a human trafficking internship for the International Rescue Committee in Phoenix, Arizona, and living away from everyone I knew in a small apartment by myself.  My mom, being a quintessential mom, sent me packages.  The first one that arrived included an assortment of books, baked cookies, and some garishly multi-colored canisters that looked like they should hold tennis balls.  But no, they were cans full of Wasabi peas.  So eating all by myself in my lonely Phoenix apartment is how I discovered Wasabi- and also played through 80% of Baldur’s Gate II.

They look so innocent...
            Wasabi (or more realistically, what we associate as being wasabi- see the caption above) is great- it packs a dry hot burn like a desert khamseen that can really scorch the nostrils if you’re not careful.  One of the first things my partner Erin taught me was a trick to avoid the dread eye-watering nose-burn: inhale continuously through the nose after eating, and you shall know no pain.  Erin remains a much bigger wasabi fiend than I.

Khamseen: a hot, dry, dusty windstorm
of the sort common in North Africa. See
also: your nostrils after eating a hand full
of wasabi peas...
            Considering how long it’s been slathered and sprinkled on other kinds of dried snacks, it’s only fitting that I’ve started coming across some Wasabi potato chips in Western markets- really, the idea should have been popularized way sooner.  But leave it to Lidl, the German discount chain, to randomly to acquire some overstocked ‘Asian-Food’-Actually-Made-in-Europe and flood the local store with it.  We were not too impressed by the Bami Goreng box on sale by the same company, (too salty), but the Wasabi chips did not disappointment.

Baldur's Gate II : the game that forced you
to resolve catfights between a widowed
druidess looking for a rebound
 relationship and an elf circus freak
 with flightless wings eager to have
your babies- while dealing with a
politico-religious succession crisis
 in an aquatic  kingdom of shark men. 
Seriously.
            The crisps themselves are a pretty green in color, as one would expect, and the flavoring is no more and no less than what you’d expect.  They taste absolutely like real wasabi, and inspired me to cram my mouth to get one more blistering hit, but I should note that the burnination was generally under control.  The chips are spicy, but less likely to set you on fire inside-out than the Wasabi peas I cut my egg-teeth on, or other Wasabi-related things I have eaten.  Overall, this is probably a good thing, but it will disappoint anyone craving the firepower to sterilize their sinuses.
Not enough Burnination to please
Trogdor, for better or worse. 
But if you need more,
here's a guide...
           
The potato slices themselves were kind of unimpressive- standard Lay’s chips that are ultra-thin and not particularly crunchy.  They still did their job, but I believe I would have enjoyed them more if the crisps hadn’t been as flimsy as paper cranes in a hurricane.  So, I don’t doubt that other manufacturors have gone ahead and formulated Wasabi chips, and if they are at least as good as the ones by Vitasia, I definitely recommend trying them out.  The idea is so obvious and intrinsically worthwhile that the product itself doesn’t have to be of super high quality to still provide a welcome surprise fireball cleansing for their taste buds and nose hairs.

Stars: 3/4
Spiciness: Hot
Pros:
- Delivers the classic-Wasabi flavor, just like you’d want it
- Adequate flavoring, adequate heat-
- Chips are as pretty green as leprechaun lasses

Cons:
- Strictly no frills
- Rather weak in texture

3 comments:

  1. were can l get some more wasabi crisps

    ReplyDelete
  2. Taquitos has a pretty extensive list of Wasabi chips produced in the US (though not all of them are "potato chips" per se.
    The Vitasia chips here are a store brand of Lidl; Lidl stores can be found throughout Europe, although you can't count on them to always have the same products in stock.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sorry, here's the link from Taquitos.net: http://www.taquitos.net/snack_reviews/Wasabi

    ReplyDelete