I was at Hong Kong Supermarket in Chinatown the other day, and while I usually try to isolate myself to the condiments aisle, I decided to grab a box of Pocky from downstairs before checking out. (This was a mistake, because I eventually left with fifteen dollars’ worth of weird chips. And here we are.)
Now, I am using the blanket term “chips” here, though all but one of the varieties I taste-tested (with my amigo Michael Doherty, whose commentary you’ll find below) were more akin to packing peanuts in shape and texture:
The flavors we tested were: plum, banana, strawberry, crab, durian and octopus, and the latter two are not pictured above; I had planned to quarantine them (durian and octopus) in a plastic Ziploc bag, but the smell was so overwhelmingly strong that it permeated both the Ziploc AND my backpack, and (not wanting to smell like dead people) I chucked them in the garbage at the bar where we conducted the taste-test. If you’re really curious, I will say that the durian chips actually DID look like a shelled peanut, and texturally was like a heavier version of puffed Cheetos. MEANWHILE, the octopus chips were the closest to a bag of Lays in look and texture, except they were shaped like tiny octopuses. (PS, before you tell me “IT’S OCTOPI, MEGAN…” I will say that spell check said “FUCK YOU, READER // I ONLY ACCEPT ‘OCTOPUSES’!”, so LAY OFF ME.)
But let’s just get into the transcript of the taste-test, yeah? HERE WE GO:
Michael: These are the crab ones?
Megan: Yeah, but I can’t figure out what’s going on on the package…the crabs seem really happy to be holding chips that are made out of them, and I just don’t feel like that’s realistic. They’re also pink, which I find strange.
Michael: Do you think they’re actually crab-flavored? Or maybe they’re made from things that crabs like? (What if we’re eating pet food for crabs?)
Megan: No, there’s definitely crab in here. That’s what the ingredients say, anyway. Oooooooooof. These smell crabby.
Michael: Yeah, that smells like…you know those tanks where they just have all the live crabs?
Megan: They’re not bad, actually.
Michael: I like them. Oh, I don’t like the aftertaste, though. But they’re not terrible. I can imagine if I was really drunk, I could totally eat an entire bag of these at a time.
Megan: If they didn’t smell so bad upon opening the bag, I think I would have been completely on board.
Michael: Yeah, they kind of just taste like weird Fritos. I’m into them now.
Michael: Oh, wow. These smell like some kind of weird strawberry Jello. Are they strawberry Cheetos?
Megan: Yeah. Oh, whoa! They taste like cereal!
Michael: These are delicious! They TOTALLY taste like cereal. It’s like Cap’n Crunch.
Megan: Yeah, the Crunch Berries! It tastes exactly like that!
Michael: I feel like they would be really good in a bowl of milk.
Megan: Me too, but I wonder if they would just dissolve really fast. Maybe I’ll test that out when I get home.
Megan: Okay, and now we have these allegedly plum-flavored things, which are represented by this guy “Master Bear”…like, he’s wearing tighty-whities, but he’s also wearing a very official chef’s hat, so like…I’m a little conflicted as to whether or not I trust him.
Michael: I mean, I like plums.
Megan: [Opening the package] Oooooooof, these do NOT smell good. These smell disgusting. It’s like a sewer smell.
Michael: That smells like poop. How can you tell it’s plum? Are you sure it’s not just a poop chip?
Megan: Well, it says “plum” on the back of the package…but why does it smell SO BAD?! The actual chips (which are like twisty-looking Cheetos) don’t smell bad, but the bag is terrible! I’m also not really getting much of a plum taste here…it’s more like a tangy kettle corn flavor.
Michael: Yeah, these aren’t plum at all, they’re just salty. But these are actually my favorite ones so far, even though they smell like toilet water. They just taste like Popchips. They do have a plum-y aftertaste.
Megan: Yeah, but these are like, banana CHEETOS, not like those dehydrated slices of banana. I saw them eat these on Buzzfeed one time.
Michael: These taste really artificial.
Megan: Yeah, it’s like banana Runts Cheetos.
Michael: These are my least-favorite so far.
Megan: Same. And the flavor really gets more intense as you chew, which is weird and terrible.
Megan: Okay, first of all, why does the octopus mascot need a snorkel? I feel like that’s an omen that these might not be so good. I do like that they’re shaped like octopuses though. [Opening the package] AHHHHHHHHH that’s bad, that’s really bad. That’s worse than the crab chips smell.
Michael: That’s way worse.
Megan: [Tasting one] Oooooooh I do NOT like that. Maybe you don’t want to try one. It’s like…it’s definitely a fishier taste, but like, in a very bad way. It tastes like how beach garbage smells. Damn, and I thought I was going to like these!
Michael: [Tasting one] Yeah, I can’t finish this. Oh, god! I’m drinking so much beer to get rid of the taste. It’s like fish that’s been sitting out in a Chinatown market in the sun for five days. I gotta go to the bathroom and spit this out.
Megan: Okay, I like, know that these are going to smell really intense. Like, there’s so much air in this bag that’s going to escape…
Michael: Hahaha! Your face!
Megan: [Making a disgusted face while chewing a durian chip] It’s not that I feel like I’m going to throw up or anything, but I’ve just never tasted anything like this before, and it’s SO STRONG. It’s like…a rotten mango that’s been marinating in rotten garlic.
Michael: I can smell it from here. Oh, god. Yeah, it’s like garlic mayo mixed with a peach or something. Okay, I’ll try one. I already ate octopus chips. It really does look like a packing peanut, like something IKEA furniture comes in.
Megan: And it’s weirdly heavier than you would expect.
Michael: [Tasting one] Nope. [Leaves to spit it out…] That was FOUL. It was literally like a mango covered in garlic.
Michael: I’m going back to the crab chips. But actually, I think the plum chips were the best. They smelled like toilet water but tasted delicious. The crab chips are the ones that I can see getting most popular in America. Oh, wait, no…I just got a really fishy taste from one. The plum chips are the clear winner.
Megan: I would say durian and octopus are tied for last place (they were both just differently bad), then banana in fourth place, and then the plum chips in third, and the strawberry Cheetos and crab chips tied for first place. I don’t know, though. I feel like you could get used to the durian the same way Shia LaBeouf got used to onions in Holes, you know? (I also wonder what the difference would be if you were really high.)