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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Indian Lay's Potato Chips

As I have before, I start this post with a disclaimer. This blog is about Rochester-area pizza. But now and then there's a food-related topic that I want to relate, that takes too much space to fit on my Facebook page. So here's one of them.
A few weeks ago, I stopped into Spice Bazaar on Jefferson Road in Henrietta. I love going into these kinds of ethnic markets because you see so many unusual foods, many of which are completely unfamiliar, if not unidentifiable, to most of us.
I had just come from dinner with my wife at Raj Mahal next door. We were on a tight schedule, due to a child-sitter's curfew, so I didn't have as much time as I would've liked to explore the shelves, which were filled with things I'd never seen before. Most had English-language labels, but that didn't help much. The names were unknown to me, and I had no idea what one would typically do with them. I did some quick searches on my phone, and was intrigued by much of what I learned about the fresh fruits, dried spices and prepared ingredient mixtures. My wife and I, both sated from our meal, agreed that we'd be back with some recipes in hand.
On our way out, my eye did catch one item that is nearly universal: Lay's potato chips. I'm a sucker for new and unusual chip flavors, and when I saw "Spanish Tomato Tango," "Football Favourites Apple Chilli," and "India's Magic Masala," how could I resist? So I grabbed a bag of each.
I'm aware of the view that somewhere deep in Frito-Lay's labs (Frito-Lay being part of PepsiCo, which for all I know is one of the corporations that secretly run the world), teams of scientists and flavor experts, sworn to secrecy, are at work, like 21st-century alchemists, coming up with combinations of chemicals that will addict us to their products. Or more benignly, they're just trying to tailor their products to what particular markets want.
What I got from these was, I think these would work in the American market, at least as a limited release.
The Tomato Tango was aptly named, as it was tomatoey and tangy. Flavor memories last a long time, and they distinctly brought back to mind SpaghettiOs. Now I happen to like SpaghettiOs, so I considered that a good thing.
The Apple Chilli was, both conceptually and in fact, the oddest of the bunch. From a very cursory internet search, I gather that this is a British or Indian combo used in chutneys, which are those relish-like mixtures that Americans have never quite caught onto. For these chips, think apple cider vinegar, crossed with dried chiles, and some sugar. Very odd, to an American palate, but Frito Lay doesn't typically push the envelope too far, and so these were relatively mild, if very interesting. I don't know why they're "football favourites"; maybe apple-chilli chutney is a favored snack of "football" fans in India, like wings in the US?
My third bag of chips, the Magic Masala, was, I think, my favorite. It most nearly captured the complexity of Indian food, with a spice mixture that defied simple description. The chips weren't spicy-hot, but they were spicy. Somewhere in there, I think, was some cumin and black pepper, but beyond that the spices mixed into an amalgam of flavor, the separate threads of which I could not unravel. That was appropriate, since garam masala is a less-well-known, but equally complex, cousin to curry powder. (I'm speaking here, of course, of this country; I'm sure that native Indians are well familiar with both.)
This was a quick foray into the world of food items available at Spice Bazaar. And as I said, I intend to go back, perhaps on a mid-afternoon when I can spend some time getting educated by the owner or staff. If you're at all adventurous, foodwise, you should check it out.

Spice Bazaar, 364 Jefferson Rd. (across from Southtown plaza)
Rochester, NY 14623
phone 585 292 5939

Hours open
Monday 11am to 9pm
Tuesday 11am to 9pm
Wednesday 11am to 9pm
Thursday 11am to 9pm
Friday 11am to 9pm
Saturday 10am to 9pm
Sunday 9:30am to 9pm

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