Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club regularly features Taste Tests. Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As regular Taste Test readers will know, the Japanese snack market has a lust for new flavors unrivaled even by its bloated, greedy conqueror, America. Sure, we have a few flavors of Coke and Pepsi, and maybe the occasional Kit Kat Dark or what have you. But the Japanese are introducing 19 new flavors of Kit Kat this year. (Let’s all stop and watch the movie Gung Ho, shall we?) Their taste for strange often looks inward: Past Kit Kats have been delivered in Japan-centric flavors like “exotic Tokyo” and “soy flour,” and we have tasted many of them.
But Kit Kats and Pepsi are for another day. (They really are—we’ve got two new Japanese Pepsi flavors and a bunch of new Kit Kats coming up soon, including “chocolate sweet baked potato.”) Today, we’re going to dive into some Pringles, Doritos, and a very special bag of Cheetos, some of which look across the Pacific for inspiration—though they apparently need a sharper telescope.
I’m speaking specifically of Japan’s confused new American-inspired flavors: Las Vegas Spareribs, Grand Canyon French Fries, and New Yorker’s Street Cheese Dog. Each can has an exciting American scene: The spareribs package features a roulette wheel, playing cards, dice, and lots of money. The Grand Canyon French Fries flavor—because anyone who thinks of the Grand Canyon immediately thinks of french fries—features a cowboy, blue skies, and some ketchup. And the Street Cheese Dog can has the Statue Of Liberty saying something in Japanese, and a picture of a grotesque hot dog enrobed in melted American cheese, sitting in a dirty newspaper. Because when you go to NYC, that’s exactly how it’s served. (In 1870.)
Two other Pringles flavors we couldn’t resist this time around were Mayonnaise Cheese and White Cream Cheese. Unlike the American-ish flavors, these come in regular-size Pringles tubes, though the writing is entirely Japanese. White Cream Cheese is apparently a winter flavor, as it features snowmen and what looks like a giant wheel of brie. Confusingly, the Mayonnaise Cheese features what looks like a baked potato.
And then there are today’s Doritos: Pizza-La Crab Cream Gratin Pizza and Tuna Mayonnaise. The former is a co-brand between Doritos and Japan’s largest pizza-delivery chain, and the latter is branded “Doritos Gourmet.”
Finally, the piece de resistance: chocolate-covered Cheetos. The packaging is pretty intense, with logos for both Cheetos and Tirol, which is apparently a well-known Japanese chocolate company. But the graphic says it all: It features dripping chocolate enrobing a Cheeto. Actually, I take that back: The graphic does not explain that the chocolate is coffee-flavored. But still: chocolate-covered Cheetos. What American (or Japanese person) could resist? We’ve certainly thought about mixing decadent chocolate with fried corn and/or potato products before, but it’s never caught on!
The taste: Let’s start with the boring. The American-style Pringles taste like barbecue, ketchup, and fake cheese, respectively. More than anything else, they’re overpowered by that distinctive Pringles taste. You might mindlessly eat a handful and never know which was which, with the possible exception of the ketchup-heavy Grand Canyon French Fries, which blast you with a quick fake-tomato taste before disappearing. There is no good reason for an American to travel to Japan in order to procure Pringles that taste like those great french fries you get at the Grand Canyon.
White Cream Cheese and Mayonnaise Cheese each had a bit more flavor. I was in the minority in enjoying the Mayonnaise Cheese chips, which didn’t have a ton of mayo flavor. (Kyle thought they did, but he’s extraordinarily mayo-averse.) They have a weird sweetness that lingers, but not in a bad way. If they renamed them “extra-cheesy potato” or something, they might do well over here. White Cream Cheese was actually tasty—a mild flavor that’s more white cheddar than brie, and without as much of that unmistakable Pringles flavor.
The same can’t be said for either of the Doritos flavors. Opening the Crab Cream Gratin Pizza bag unleashed a powerful scent that everybody in the room immediately recognized as dry fish food. Though the bag encouraged us to “open up with your smile,” frowns were far more apparent. Closer examination of the bag art reveals bits of corn on the pizza, along with copious amounts of cheese. But the Doritos in this bag tasted like they smelled—not quite as horrible, maybe, but with that lingering fish-food aftertaste. Neither pizza nor seafood nor Doritos, these proved an abomination in the eyes of God. Nay, said we.
Tuna Mayonnaise: not quite as bad. The chips themselves are heavier and denser than regular Doritos, with a slimy film, but the taste itself wasn’t overpowering. Some bites actually tasted completely unflavored, like blank Doritos, while others had a sharp fishy bite. Nobody ate more than one, which is a telling sign for any test marketers who might be considering the jump to Chicago.
Finally, dessert snacks: chocolate Cheetos. Let’s pause again to consider the brilliantly fat-ass idea of dunking Cheetos in chocolate. I’m sure there’s a guy somewhere who does this every night on his own—melts some chocolate in the microwave, or maybe just has a bottle of Hershey’s syrup by his combination bed/TV chair. He’s just gonna eat one after the other anyway, so why not mash up those tastes into something even more delicious? The unexpected thing about these Cheetos, though, is that they either have no cheese taste, or the cheese is completely overwhelmed by the chocolate. That doesn’t stop these from being pretty delicious, though they look like animal turds. They seem like end-of-civilization food, but that doesn’t stop them from being good. Maybe it even helps. Eat them while waiting for the bombs to fall.
- “With the exception of the cheesy mayo and Grand Canyon fries, none of these was particularly memorable. The Doritos tasted like Doritos, and the Pringles tasted like Pringles. Spray whatever godforsaken powder you want on them, but it’s pretty much the same thing in the end.”
- “I absolutely fucking hate mayonnaise, so it’d take a huge miracle for me to like these cheesy-mayo ones. No miracle, no like.”
- “There’s something unsettling about a chip that’s creamy. This white cream cheese has a pretty strong flavor that would quickly become oppressive after a couple chips.”
- “The cheese-dog flavor tastes like all they did was hose these down with liquid smoke.”
- “Speaking of hosing chips down, they took the ketchup flavor and ended there for the fries. Where’s the authentic Grand Canyon flavor in these chips, the one we Americans so closely associate with the Grand Canyon?”
- “Really, these chip-makers only have about a dozen flavors—they just change the names. These spare ribs just like the steak chips from England we had last year.”
- “As someone who despises both tuna and mayo, I should’ve fucking hated the tuna-mayo Doritos, but there was virtually no flavor. It tasted like a corn chip. I WIN.”
- “Aside from looking exactly like cat turds, the Cheetos were relatively tasty. Super-cheap, crappy chocolate, but not bad.”
- “It isn’t chocolate dust, as some people claimed when just looking at these—it’s actual chocolate. It melted on my hand. I mean, it’s really thin, waxy chocolate, like you’d get on a Kit Kat or something, but it isn’t just dust.”
- “There’s no cheese flavor. It’s basically just crunch and chocolate. Not bad at all, but not really worth the melty mess, especially if it was warm out. Call me back when these are candy-coated as well as chocolate-coated, like M&Ms.”
- “There’s a faint whiff of mayo on the mayo-cheese Pringles, but mostly this tastes like Pringle. Just that really familiar sawdust and potato-byproduct taste.”
- “I wanted to taste America anew through Japanese tongues, but I only ended up with a mouthful of Pringles.”
- “The french-fry Pringles tasted just like the Burger King chips we tried a few months ago. This is just ketchup in chip form.”
- “The mayo chips weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been. More of a sour-cream taste.”
- “The crab-dip whatever chips smelled like fish food, and tasted fishy too. Horrible aftertaste. Picture discount sushi with past-date cream cheese on top, but crunchy.”
- “The white cream cheese were the best-tasting, but only because they were so inoffensive. If you tried hard enough, I’m sure you could imagine this tasting like brie.”
- “The tuna-and-mayo Doritos are rank. They had a very smooth consistency, which makes my mouth think it’s done something wrong.”
- “Doesn’t Burger King already make these? They tasted like scabbed-over ketchup.”
- “Ween should have told Cheetos that chocolate and cheese is a bad idea, though it’s a great record.”
- “Chocolate Cheetos would make a terrible summer snack—a wadded mass of corn mush and melted chocolate.”
- “Mayonnaise Pringles: Tastes like a dull sour-cream chip without the onions. Sour, salty, dairy notes. Smell was more potent than the taste.”
Where to get them: We got everything for this taste test from Napajapan.com, home of many delicious and disgusting Japanese imports.