One of my (many) vices is potato crisps. Or, more specifically, new kinds of crisps. A new flavour of something? A dodgy-sounding 'roast turkey and cranberry sauce' special edition of your mediocre 'deli' crisps? I'll be all over it like white on rice. It's hard for me to walk out of a specialist grocery store without blowing a lot of money on imported, 'high end' British and American corn- and potato-based snack foods. And no matter how many times I'm disappointed by stupidly expensive crisps, man, I just keep on going back. A fiend.
Anyway, happy news. Local pan-Asian grocer recently expanded its range of savoury snack products. Everything is reasonably priced: on par or cheaper than what you'd pay for a locally made foil-wrapped, air-padded party of starch/salt/grease.
Last night's product wasn't even worthy of a photograph. The packaging was what got me into the store. Through the window I spotted it. This ... golden foil bag with a huge, near-pornographic picture of some hot wings on it. All greasy and red. I am very fond of chicken wings. I am very fond of chicken wings that have been assaulted with hot sauce. I had to have these. But, er, yeah ... avoid, kids. Avoid. This Japanese product--a 'corn snack'--was akin to croutons in appearance. Only the texture was more like dodgy supermarket white bread than had been lightly warmed in a pool of scary-smelling vegetable oil than actual toast. Now, croutons flavoured like hot wings? That's an idea I could get behind. But greasy, soft puffs of corn that tasted like nothing in particular? Not even salt? Pfft. I'd pick up another packet to take a photo but ... yeah ... no. 0/5 stars.
Today's selection is significantly better. Enter the CALBEE, Inc-brand Hot and Spicy Flavoured Grill-a-Corn (dig the ... masculine corn cob chilling, sans sunglasses, on a ... tanning bed? on a gurney under a range hood? on the packaging). Prepared and packed in China for the Japanese market. Product is corn-based, obviously, and is a somewhat superior version of a product Australians are very familiar with: Twisties. The level of heat isn't, unfortunately, as bold as the front of the packaging suggests. Mild without being boring. Only a slight background note of arse. Barely detectable under the chilli powder/paprika double team. The soy sauce and flavour enhancer mean this bad boy packs a fair bit of umami: something lacking from many snack foods, something that earns Calbee Grill-a-Corn an extra point. Not much corn flavour but, hey, like anyone would be surprised by that. 3.5/5 stars.
Ignore the disgusting table.