Lots of us grew up knowing this fundamental truth: South Africa has the best chips in the world (or ‘potato chips’ as they say in the US, ‘crisps’ in the UK). Never mind the cheese and onion and barbecue flavours; there was smoked salmon and chutney…and my favourite (don’t laugh), tomato sauce.

south-african-potato-chips-seasoning

Now the extremely hip American supermarket chain Trader Joe’s has cottoned on to this and introduced its very own simulacrum, with possibly one of the longest names in recent grocery history – ‘Potato Chips with South African Style Seasoning’.

The popular U.S. chain, which last year opened its 400th store, is like Woolies and stocks almost only its own products. Like Woolies, too, it has a very select number of items, which makes shopping a whole lot easier.

In fact, you wouldn’t really call it a supermarket, more a “let’s go and have fun and see what new products TJ’s has concocted for us” type of store.

The South African potato chips are possibly the first foodstuff in the store (other than Greek olives maybe) that are named after a country. On first seeing them, I thought it odd, but then I thought of my old standard, Simba Chips, Tomato Sauce Flavour.

Out of curiosity, I of course had to buy a packet and see what they tasted like. And my verdict? They tasted kind of smoky, kind of barbecue-y…but I’ll let TJ’s give their own description of what they were aiming at:

“These uniquely seasoned chips start with paprika that is slow-smoked. This method infuses a roasted flavor, reminiscent of the South African braai (“barbecue”). We then, blend the smoked paprika with chili pepper, sea salt, garlic, basil, and parsley. This combination of flavors is traditionally used on grilled meat, fish, or poultry. We decided to try it on our Ode to the Classic Potato Chip… and we think our instincts were right!”

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Ted grew up between Washington D.C. and Pretoria. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and was an editor for Reuters in Manhattan. His books include 'The Girl with the Crooked Nose' and 'Flat/White,' about living in a crazy tenement in Manhattan. His latest book is a true story of murder and movie mayhem in the 1920s that takes place in Johannesburg, London, Paris and New York. Read more at tedbotha.com