We begin our quest with a fuchsia bag of potato crisps that’ll cripple your grandmother. Not since Ernest “The Cat” Miller danced in steel-tipped red dancing shoes have I seen something as fiercely red as what’s in that hot pot dish featured on the front of the bag. The name Numb & Spicy Hot Plot is a (very) literal translation of “mala huoguo” a Chinese term that means numbingly spicy hot pot. To create this scorching sensation Lay’s blended Sichuan peppercorn into each chip to shear away our senses and scorch our sacred mouth holes.
The flavor is one I now savor. My son is all about Taki’s and Flamin’ Hot snacks in all their varieties and variants. While I respect those snacks’ empire and place in the hearts of ebullient spice seekers worldwide I don’t ever go for them when grabbing a snack from the pantry. But there is a distinctively Sichuan slant to these that makes my food-loving self sing. I found that hot pot dishes have been a mainstay of Chinese culture for over 1,000 years and hungry families will toss all kinds of stuff into that boiling pot of broth from vegetables and seafood, to sliced meats and noodles, even offal (yes, animal entrails and organs). The adjective “numb” is not a misnomer. The spice from these hits different than say, a Louisiana-style hot sauce, or wasabi punch to the nostrils. It’s a deep and dark heat that lands heavy like an Xavier Pendragon roundhouse kick to the ribs. And we thank them for it.
Some back of bag action for all you miscreants wanting that peek.
Up next: Waxberry flavor and I so wish that were a typo.
Like Cathy spoke to the foibles of the modern woman these speak to the sycophant grocer giving you the side-eye for stalking the exotic fruit bin. I had to do some deep research to familiarize myself with the fruit and even after much reading all I’ve got to go on was that it was name dropped in some Li Bai poems (wonder if Gary Snyder ever ate any) and that it goes by various other names like red bayberry, yumberry, and the Chinese strawberry.
Man, these are just weird – my girlfriend said they taste like Pop Rocks in potato chip form and while that’s not too far off it’s more flummoxing than flattering. Your eyes don’t deceive you. Those are red polka dots on the chips. But as someone who went to school in the 1980’s and was always warned of the toxicity of paint flecks, I found the fact that the red things are little flakes of what resembles crayon shavings that stick to your fingers and anything else they touch more than a little troubling. Between the unnatural flavor and the weird ruby detritus that can’t go unseen these were an ambitious swing but a ultimately a strikeout. If your local library is having an anime night feel free to bring these but otherwise approach with caution. For now I’m heading to China to climb an evergreen tree and pull down waxberries just so I can stomp on them.