I really had no idea what to expect with these things. I have had no experience with South African-seasoned foods on which to base even a guess what that might mean. However, between the time I brought the bag home and when I got around to opening it, I had come across reviews from both of the other two Trader Joe's blogs that I read regularly.
From Eating at Joe's:
The same qualities that make the South African Smoke Seasoning so savory on meat work against it here – it’s simply too salty and strong tasting for the simple potato chips. Divorced of a meat base, the seasoning has nothing to work off of. The result is sort of like throwing a handful of the seasoning directly into your mouth. It’s not that the taste of the seasoning is bad, it’s simply overpowering. When used on a grilled steak or hamburger, the smoke seasoning simply blends in to the complex profile of the flavors at hand. Here, on its own, it has the very strong taste of bratwurst, or as one taste tester put it, “burnt hot dog”.
How much you’re going to like these chips, then, depends on how much you like that heavy, bratwurst taste, without getting the juicy bratwurst bite. This wouldn’t be as much of a dealer breaker if it wasn’t for the strength of the taste. Trader Joe’s isn’t mincing around here – each chip is blasted with a full on shot of seasoning that is close to overwhelming. These chips are best not eaten by the handful, but slowly, one by one, or not at all.From What's Good at Trader Joe's:
In the end, these South African-inspired chippies taste closer to a run-of-the mill straightforward barbeque chip to me, which is kinda boring and not the exotic kick I was looking for.I thought it was interesting that both writers thought that the seasonings would work better on meat than on chips, but while EAJ found them overpowering, WGATJ found them boring and lacking in "kick."
I'm wagering this is not the fault of the spice blend itelf, but because it's on a chip, not a big ol'l chunk of carne. There's no real base for the flavor to blast off from. I've been too busy with some other spices and rubs at TJ's, but I *think* I've seen a South African seasoning blend on the shelf there which, if it's anything like this, would be a terrific pickup to rub on some chicken or fish or sausage or anything that can get all juicy on a grill. Instead, here, we're left with these light little dry crisps without much pop or sizzle. I think a little meaty gristle here could go a long, long ways - there's just not enough here for the seasonings to be able to really, fully express themselves.
When I finally got around to trying them myself, my view was much closer to the former than the latter. I find them too intense. Not inedibly so; I'm still working my way through the bag, but it's taking longer than usual, because I eat a lot fewer of them with a lunch than I would regular potato chips.
I understand the comparison to more familiar barbecue potato chips, but it didn't seem quite right. I couldn't put my finger on the difference, but Nina could. At the risk of stealing her thunder in advance, I thought she nailed it when she said that they are less sweet but more smokey than barbecue chips.
Will I buy it again?
Probably not, but I'm not at all sorry to have tried them. The experience has piqued my curiosity for how similar seasonings on meat would be. Maybe someday I'll find out.
Less sweet, more smoke than the typical BBQ chip. Which faithful readers may surmise falls on the favorable side of the spectrum for me.
True! But: the other reviewers are entirely correct. These seasoning are on the wrong type of chip. This blend needs a serious slab of potato to work off, not a thin wispy crisp.