Chipping away

I can’t believe Original Sin started with a mere apple. Who finds apples so irresistible anyway? Surely the Serpent could have come up with something better? Like Double Chocolate Layer Cake, or Butterscotch ice cream?

Right now, I’d vote for Kettle cooked Jalapeno Potato chips. Or, on second thought, any chips.


I remember buying chips from a chain called Hot Chips in Chennai (are they still around?) There were potato chips – the plain salted ones and those covered in bright red chilli-powder. There were banana chips and plaintain chips and other chips I had never tasted before like sweet potato chips, tapioca chips and karela chips. You could bite into a little of every variety and order what you liked.  Sadly, I actually never tried out everything they had to offer.

They would also make the chips right in front of you in a huge cauldron bubbling with oil.  If you wanted to convince yourself that the chips weren’t too oily, or that they weren’t using reheated oil, well, you were completely out of luck. I would usually avert my eyes from the cauldron and order as fast as I could. Unfortunately, you had to actually walk past the cauldron to order..

While “fish and chips” may be iconic of Britain, and potato chips and French fries may be a staple in the US, I would argue that it is India that has the most diversity in chips.. and then there are the papads and vadams which are chips too.. If I started to write about all the different papads we have, with rice and urad dal and sabu dana, that would be a whole post in itself, right? Okay, I will stop now, the very thought is too mouth-watering to be any good for me.

In the US, I find the Kettle Cooked chips taste the best (I suspect they are also the oiliest).  I am not a big fan of some other varieties like the “vegetable chips”.  Also, why do all the chips here seem to have salt as their main ingredient?

I am a great believer in avoiding all kinds of fried food.  Yet, somehow chips seem to slip under my fried food-radar with extreme ease.  The days when I am feeling especially guilty about all the oil in a packet of chips, I simply switch to buying baked potato chips. See! Simple fix.

Then there is my belief that tortilla chips are somehow healthier than potato chips.  Even the ones that are not baked. The fact that you eat them with salsa that contains tomatoes and avocados makes them really healthy, right?

As for nachos, give me a little time and I will come up a good reason for why they are healthy snacks too 😉 Some reason involving cheese containing milk proteins and calcium, and never mind all that cholesterol !

Anyway, they do say that a little fat is good for you. WebMD tells me eating fat is good because it helps absorb nutrients better– especially lycopene from tomatoes (remember that salsa)?

So perhaps the ultimate health food is Nachos with salsa 😉 Maybe that’s what the Serpent should have offered.

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18 thoughts on “Chipping away

  1. Now now! You need not remind us grad students- who are already craving for some home cooked food- about chips in India! The variety that is available in places like Hot chips, I guess, is because they are in the southern part of India. We, south Indians, tend to eat more spicy and hot stuff as compared to Gujjus, Bengalis, Marathis etc. We use more oil and chilli powder and our brownish red chips taste heaven! Coupled with the varieties in banana chips from Kerala. This variety you don’t even get in the northern part of India. They tend to stick to the khatta meeta masala that is ubiquitous in everything they make.

    And yes, Hot Chips, is still there!

  2. What an (un)healthy and yummy post to start my day!! Already my stomach is growling for some greasy freshly-fried chips. Though you didn’t mention them, I’m sure you’ve tried the jackfruit chips from Kerala…slurrrrp! Okay, I’ll stop drooling now. 😀

  3. Well, Hot Chips is till here, hale and hearty.
    And nachos and tortilla chips are really healthy – I mean, you get all those vitamins from the sauces, the antioxidants from the salsa and as you mentioned, the calcium from the cheese.
    Not to mention the daily requirement of carbohydrates and essential fatty acids too! 🙂
    And what are chips without some oil I say?
    After this post, am off to Hot Chips for some lunch and guess who I get to blame for all those extra calories? 😉

  4. I really wouldnt know the answers to your questions but I could swear by Lay’s Lightly Salted chips when i was in US and by the chips from Subbamma stores in Gandhibazar when in Bangalore.
    Hot Chips still exist and adorns the board of each and every chips maker in Bangalore :)…Somehow hot and chips seem to be contradictory since we usually eat a packet of chips over a period of 2 days. Or are they referring to the chilli powder coating?

  5. Wow What an post ? While I write this I am munching the Fritos. 😀
    The hot chips series is still doing strong in b’lore too; I love it because they server the fresh fried potato chips. 😛
    In USA even if you get backed chips nothing can beat the fried one. Who recalls how much fat is going in when you much those Lays Sour cream onion and Lays wafer 😉

  6. Adithya: I am not too sure of the South Indians-eat-spicier food argument. It’s true that S. Indian pickles are hotter/spicier. But as for everyday food – there is a lot of ginger and green chillies in North Indian cooking too. You get the chilli powder potato chips in the North too… but banana chips and tapioca chips are all uniquely South Indian..

    Ideasmith: Yes, I remember the jackfruit chips now, how could I have forgotten them? Slightly sweet and crisp, ah yes, I remember gorging on them once.. jackfruit is another fruit that you can never find in the US 😦

    chennairamblings: Oh yes, antioxidants too! Makes me think I should have nachos everyday 😉 Good to know Hot Chips is still around – do they do lunch too now?

    Siri: I didn’t know Hot Chips had branched out to Bangalore too 🙂 You finish a packet in 2 days? I swing between extremes – devouring it in a day, or hoarding for a whole week until the bag starts to reeks of stale oil and I have to throw away the chips that are still left!

    BlueMist: No comfort food like fresh potato chips 🙂 I agree with you on the Sour Cream and Onion chips, can’t stand them myself, it’s not just the fat content but also the taste. Some taste for chips is acquired, I guess – I know many desis who love the Dill pickle flavored potato chips here. But as you say, the fried ones are the best!

  7. Jackfruit chips are my favourite sort of vegetable chip for that strange partly crispy partly chewy texture and the mild sweetness. As far as regular potato chips go, though, salt and vinegar is the best flavour there is.

  8. ??!: Let it not be said that the US is second to anyone in the availability (and consumption) of fatty, fried foods 😛

    Aishwarya: I’ve never tasted salt and vinegar in potato chips. As for jackfruit chips, I had forgotten all about them until Ideasmith reminded me, but now I can’t stop thinking about them 🙂

  9. chennairamblings: Yes, why are they getting into Chaat? Or, for that matter, lunch? I can see them selling sweets and other fried stuff. Maybe they can diversify into dosas. But chaat seems a bit too far 😦 Plus, there is Gangotri for chaat, right?

  10. For decades I paid little attention to cholesterol but then “bad” LDL began creeping up on me (I am past 70), so that I now have to scrutinize the nutritional content of what I eat. And the LDL guidelines are far more stringent than they used to be. It came as news to me that all dairy products, including skimmed milk, contain some cholesterol. Of course saturated fats and the notorious trans-fats (I remember dalda and restaurant meals from Indian days) can silt up coronary arteries . Even though I am more than averagely active, physical activity does not quite burn off as much LDL as I would like. I am particularly mindful because some have died of a sudden heart attack while still in their fifties. Reconciling the claims of heart-healthy nutrition and one’s taste buds is not easy but it can be done.

  11. Lekhni – I think salt and vinegar chips are a british thing. I’ve certainly never heard Americans mention them (they may be available in Europe. I’ve never discussed chips with Europeans, amazingly). But really, even sprinkling a bit of vinegar on regular crisps is wonderful.
    (Sprinkling vinegar on many things is wonderful, actually. Including lightly salted french fries.)

  12. Also, why do all the chips here seem to have salt as their main ingredient?

    So that folks can wash it down with a can or bottle of soft drink. 😉
    A good way to increase sales and ring in some profits, since Lays is owned by Pepsi (I think). A while ago, some company introduced chips that caused diarrhea – the same company also made adult diapers. 🙂

  13. Candadai Tirumalai: Yes, it’s true that milk and cheese contain cholesterol, but there’s also a debate as to whether yogurt actually reduces cholesterol levels.

    Aishwarya: Good tip, I should try sprinkling vinegar on chips, and other stuff too..I might end up with some Indian Chinese creations 🙂

    Amit: This is very interesting info. I’d never heard about Olestra. I have heard about diarrhea as a side effect of diet pills like Orlistat and bariatric surgery, but I didn’t know someone would make potato chips that are supposed to make you lose weight 😛

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