Snack Critic: Change up Your Snack Game with These Alternative Lay’s Flavors from Thailand, Malaysia, and TaiwanMarch 7, 2017
Crunchy, salty, and always perfectly seasoned, we don’t need to tell you that Lay’s makes some damn tasty potato chips. Though primarily an American product, having originated from the US as the first national brand of potato chips, they may well rival McDonald’s as the face of globalization and glocalization given how they’re practically everywhere, even offering a wide array of flavors exclusive to different parts of the world.
While the Philippines has yet to receive its own unique Lay’s adaptation, certain variants from our neighboring countries have also made their way to our local grocery shelves. We wondered: just what would they taste like? How true do they stay to the flavors they claim to emulate?
lay’s KYUSHU SEAWEED (taiwan)
Our first bag hails from Taiwan but patterns itself after ‘nori shio’ potato chips popular in Japan. You find flecks of dried seaweed on the surface of each chip, adding its ocean-y, nutty essence to each bite without taking away from the flavor of the fried potato. A hint of soy backs it up and the sensation ends with just enough sweetness, successfully capturing the flavor of Asian seaweed snacks and the addictive crunch of potato chips. Notably though, it doesn’t feel nearly as oily as its American counterpart. On one hand we miss the ‘fried’ vegetable oil flavor and astounding crispness that’s characteristic of Western Lay’s as we know it; on the other hand, we also appreciate the lightness, because it doesn’t leave you with the typical post-munch heavy, greasy, stomach-churning feeling.
lay’s FRENCH CHEESE (malaysia)
French cheese? Ooh. Fancy. But with about 350-400 different kinds of cheese in France, you’d wonder which one this variant was referring to exactly. It took a couple of chips—each of which is similar to the Kyushu Seaweed in tasting less oily and less crisp than the original—to be able to identify any flavor at all. We were pretty convinced this was just a slightly saltier take on regular Lay’s given a fancy name. It’s only upon licking off the powder against the surface of the chips (graphic description aside—hey, it works) that you realize it does carry a mild flavor we’d describe as mostly savory and onion-y. We can’t think of any one cheese—let alone any one French cheese—that fits this description, so while we enjoyed the bag, we’re still confused.
lay’s SWISS CHEESE (taiwan)
Adding to the cheese conundrum is this variant from Taiwan, carrying the same less-oily, less-crisp character of the previous bags and claiming to emulate Swiss cheese. The term ‘Swiss cheese’ itself is a bit of an ambiguous one; on one hand there is what’s known in America as ‘Swiss cheese’—you know, the mildly nutty, rubbery, hole-packed stuff (typically meant to resemble Emmental cheese, though they are not one and the same thing) that you find at the deli counter—on the other hand there is actual cheese from Switzerland (quite a number of varieties, in fact). Either way, we can’t say this bag of Lay’s even really tastes like its namesake. Rather, you get a flavor that’s sweet, spicy, beefy even… hardly cheesy, save for a subtle milkiness at the end. We don’t get it, either, but we loved it no less.
lay’s rock SWEET BASIL (thailand)
The ‘Rock’ series of Lay’s hails from Thailand, featuring crinkle-cut chips similar to Ruffles (though like the regular style Lay’s, are much less oily) cut with just the right thickness that feels satisfying to grind on with the teeth. Venturing into the unique flavor category is this ‘Sweet Basil’ variant. The buildup of flavor is incredible: a bite starts with a general savory (even chicken-y) flavor, as is standard, but gradually introduces the distinct herb-y note of basil; a bit of heat thrums in the background, and it concludes with a sweetness that tastes incredible with the saltiness of the chips.
lay’s rock EXTRA BARBECUE (thailand)
Also from the ‘Rock’ series from Thailand is this final variant claiming to be flavored with not just barbecue, but extra barbecue. What they mean by that exactly, we don’t know, because compared to regular barbecue Lay’s, these actually taste much less smoky. Rather, Lay’s interprets the ‘barbecue’ here in a more sweet-and-tangy way, with a deep, lingering beefiness and a zestiness that reminds us of tomatoes and bell peppers. Neither beef, tomato, nor bell pepper powders are listed in the ingredients, so it might actually be soy sauce powder and paprika giving off this impression. Still this was absolutely tasty, and here’s a pro tip: it’s spectacular with a ranch dipping sauce, should you have some in your pantry. (If not, here’s a recipe.)
Though these variants differ considerably from their Western counterpart—not just in flavor but in texture and bite quality—Lay’s offers a great lineup here. Whether you’re a long-time Lay’s loyalist looking to tick off these variants from your bucketlist or an all-around snack lover in need of something new to munch on, it’s worth picking up a bag or two to keep in your snack basket. We can only hope they come up with Filipino flavors next (Chicken Adobo chips, anyone?—Pinoy ulam is great in snack form, FYI); until then, pass us another bag of any of these, please.