Snack Critic: Change Up Those Boring Potato Chips For These Green Pea SnacksJanuary 16, 2017
It’s 4 PM and you get the munchies, but don’t want to fill up before dinnertime—where do you turn? Enter junk food snacks. This new column hopes to explore these gems and discover just what lies within their shiny plastic wrappers.
Our local snack aisles come lined with some pretty standard stuff: potato chips, nachos, cheese puffs. Yawn. But dig a little deeper and you’ll come across a more interesting category seemingly unique to these parts: green pea snacks. Though I unfortunately could not dig up any solid information on the origin of the green pea snack, one thing’s for sure: they deserve recognition for how they take advantage of the pea’s naturally nutty, earthy flavor.
From observation, it appears that green peas in junk food form is popular throughout the Asian continent. (It has Western counterparts, but those are mostly recent creations targeted at the health-conscious niche market.) You find them in various iterations—either featuring the whole pea (usually coated and fried), or by taking their starch and churning them into other shapes. This week we’ll put the spotlight on the latter. Join me as I unwrap four fun supermarket snacks: Oishi Pods, W.L. Foods Muncher Green Curls, Miaow Miaow Green Peas Snack, and Regent Green-V.
OISHI PODS PEA SNACKS
These pea pod-shaped offerings by snack conglomerate Oishi may be the most recognizable of the bunch. Made with a blend of green peas, corn and rice, a bite reveals a peculiar fibrous, crackling texture that makes for a hearty chomp. Past the initial flavor of oil and salt—think Lays’ potato chips toned down a notch—the nutty, earthy flavor of green peas peeks out, with a hint of sweetness at the end. With no in-your-face seasonings (besides salt) and no MSG—and look, ma, it’s baked instead of fried!—these Pods take on a subdued approach that suits the mellow color scheme on the packaging. Anything but boring, whenever I’m around these chips, I find myself munching on more than I intend to.
W.L. FOODS MUNCHER GREEN CURLS (CHEESE FLAVOR)
Like Pods, these curls are based on the starch triumvirate of green peas, corn and rice, but thinner, longer, and more cylindrical. Though they come in an unnaturally oversaturated green, each piece delivers a good, crackly crunch with the fibrous texture of the pea. These are also the seasoned the strongest in the bunch. And while I wouldn’t say it tastes like cheese, you still get a well-rounded savoriness that’s part-sweet and salty, part-umami, and just a tad spicy. The transition to the green pea flavor is seamless—the relatively strong seasonings work to its advantage here, bringing out the best of its mother legume.
MIAOW MIAOW GREEN PEAS SNACK
Hailing from Malaysia are these green pea snacks, also based on the peas, corn, and rice. Like Munchers, these take on a typical cheese-curl shape with a more realistic shade of green, and a crackly-fibrous-puffy texture (just a touch more delicate). These fall under the milder, more neutral end of the flavor spectrum, though the ingredient list includes MSG. The pea flavor underneath isn’t as strong, but I get this other nutty flavor which reminds me of Kashi Go Lean cereal. While these are not my favorite, I wouldn’t say no to a handful or two if I were offered a bag.
The only snack on the list based on green peas and wheat flour, these puffs—if you can call them that, with their uneven shapes that amusingly resemble actual green beans—offer an airy but stale, crumbly bite that resembles styrofoam more than anything (save for these denser, crunchier areas that require more gnawing of the teeth). They come barely seasoned, which puts them on just about border of bland. Somehow these grew on me though; I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the way it melts in the mouth, coating the tongue with its starchy pea goodness. Maybe it’s the thrill of finding those occasional dense areas and the satisfaction of having something to chomp down on when you do. Or, well, maybe it’s just me and my penchant for the flavor of the pea, which does reveal itself towards the end.