Back when I lived in Japan, I was amazed at all of the different snack flavors, including Pepsi-flavored Cheetos. It seems that the Sino-Japanese rivalry has continued, as China sports numerous bizarre snack flavors too.
I have been hard-pressed to find Flaming Hot Cheetos here in Guangzhou, but that has not prevented me from encountering a plethora of oddities in the snack aisle. The closest thing to a spicy flavor that I have found was “American Hot Wings” Doritos, or something of that nature. They had a bit of a kick, but they were quite sweet, actually. To be honest, just about every snack here is sweet, including regular Cheetos. Even lime-flavored Lays are sweet and taste more like green Trix cereal than the zesty lime and chili that I’m used to. Maybe they are trying to appeal to the local Cantonese taste, and are saltier in other provinces. This would be similar to the made up dishes found in Chinese restaurants around the world; fortune cookies do not actually exist here in Mainland China.
Strange potato chip flavors do exist, however. Southern Biscuits and Gravy may have sounded novel back home in the States, but have you ever heard of yogurt-flavored chips? I tried a few, and just as I suspected, they were disgusting as Hell. They are something that I just had to give a try though.
Anyone that has been to an Asian market in the USA knows that dried squid is a popular snack sold at such venues. Despite this fact, I never thought that I would see squid-flavored potato chips. Ms. Changsha seems to be quite fond of them, and to my surprise they are actually pretty good. It is a smart marketing ploy on the part of Frito-Lay to appeal to the tastes of locals.
A flavor that is made to appeal directly to Chinese tastes is the Numb & Spicy Hot Spot flavored Lays. Upon opening the bag, I was greeted by the aroma of hot spices, and expected to finally taste something akin to the Flaming Hot flavors that I grew up with as a kid. I was sorely disappointed as this flavor is numb indeed. I can see how people could like this flavor, as it is indeed tasteful, but it lacks the fiery heat that I was longing for. I guess I will just have to put chips aside and eat some actual Hunan or Sichuan cuisine (that’s a lot better anyway since I am already overloading on carbs as it is).
I still believe that Japan will win the weird flavor contest over China, but the Middle Kingdom is certainly in the running. I only hope that there is a place somewhere on Earth that still sells that delicious Baja Picante flavor of Doritos.