We Americans think we know our potato chips. Some of us subsist on little else. Yet when was the last time we put any real effort into our chips? We have pushed the limits of our creativity if we offer potato chips in salt-and-vinegar flavor.

A recent visit to the Lotus Market, an Asian grocery in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, yielded this list of potato-chip flavors:

Roasted Fish Flavor

Numb & Spicy Hot Pot Flavor

Cucumber Flavor

Mexican Chicken Tomato Flavor

Italian Red Meat Flavor

Roasted Cumin Lamb Skewer Flavor

Hot and Spicy Braised Duck Tongue Flavor

Hot and Sour Lemon Braised Chicken Feet Flavor

Nothing we Americans do can match this selection, or—for that matter—the package art that shows us a delicious-looking chicken foot or duck tongue to let us know what kind of treat awaits us inside the package. Until we Americans can offer a similar variety of potato chips, we have to confess that we’re doing potato chips wrong.

But what brand would offer such exotic flavors to the Asian market? Well… Lay’s.

This means that American potato-chip makers are not at fault. It is the eaters of potato chips whose prosaic tastes cause all the hot and sour lemon braised chicken feet to be devoted to chips for the overseas market. As consumers of packaged snack foods, we should be ashamed of ourselves.


  1. tom says:

    Sometimes a potato chip is just a potato chip. As even Freud once said.

  2. Occasional Correspondent says:

    Back in the 1980s there was a US snack maker whose product was labeled Mr. Charles — don’t know and too lazy to see whether they’re still in business.  They had trucks that ran routes distributing product; don’t recall ever seeing Mr. Charles product in retail outlets.  The office in which I worked was on one of these routes.  Their offerings ran to pretzels and potato chips, typically in big gallon (2-gallon?) cans.  They did offer potato chips in a dozen or more flavors and would rotate flavors on some schedule; the driver would often distribute free samples of prospective flavors, sort of test marketing on the fly to established customer base.  They generally did surprisingly well in reproducing the advertised flavor.  Their offerings were to an American palate — or maybe that’s to a Midwest American palate — for instance, ketchup and bbq flavored chips, but they also had dill and then off to more exotic offerings that escape memory now.  So Americans used to have a wider chip palate; its current narrowness ’twas not always thus (pace Mr. Natural).

  3. Von Hindenburg says:

    I’m wondering if ‘cucumber’ is just a bad translation of ‘pickle’, which is available around here.

    • Dr. Boli says:

      Also, it is possible that “Hot and Spicy Braised Duck Tongue Flavor” is a bad translation of “sour cream and onion.”

  4. Von Hindenburg says:

    Ok. I yield. I stopped by Lotus Foods and grabbed a bag of cucumber chips. (I was not brave enough to try the other flavors.). It definitely is Cucumber, rather than Dill Pickle. Interesting and almost… refreshing in a manner with which I do not normally associate with potato chips.

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