Snack Nation: Wasa Beef
Ever since Japan opened up in the 19th century, there's been that old axiom about Japanese companies learning from the West to beat it at its own game.
Nothing better symbolizes this competitive cultural interchange today than Wasa Beef chips. These are homegrown potato chips flavored with a potent combination of Western salty meat and spicy wasabi Japanese horseradish. In Japan, this combination may be slightly unorthodox, but for a potato chip, it makes a natural addition to the normal lineup.
Actually, wasabi may be even better than the usual spicy agents. The green root gives the chips a nice punch without having the artificial or mouth-numbing effect of hot red pepper. There's also a subtle sweetness that has the added pleasure of no aftertaste. Pringles and Frito-Lay could learn a lot from Wasa Beef.
Maybe the quality of Wasa Beef has to do with the maker Yamayoshi, who apparently produces little other than potato chips. These guys are like the old shokunin craftsmen of yore -- only they have turned their great skill and passion for detail towards the fine arts of snackery.
This year marks the 22th anniversary of Wasa Beef, and we look forward to 22 more years of the chips in our lives.
Yamayoshi Wasa Beef (60g), ¥120