Foreign Snacks That Maybe Aren’t So Very Foreign

Recently I read an article about the foreign versions of popular US snack foods and how they generally didn’t go over very well with American taste-testers. (Side note: that’s a job i’d like to get paid for.)
What kind of potato chips do you like? Plain? Salt and vinegar? Sour cream and chives? BBQ? If you lived in Russia though, you might well say that caviar chips are your favorites, or crab, or even pickled cucumber. Lay’s produces those flavors because that’s what Russians say they like.
Strange, you say. Well yes, to us it is. First off, how many of us have even eaten real caviar? Not too many, I imagine, so a chip flavored with red caviar really does seem strange. But crab chips aren’t as out-there as you might at first think. I’ve seen chips flavored with Old Bay seasoning for many years now. (They’re repulsive.) And I greatly enjoyed Ruffles Steak n Onion chips, about 20 years ago. They were great, and they’re not far off in concept from the Russians’ grilled-meat variety.

Let’s move on to something sweet, shall we? Our friends in China don’t have as big a sweet tooth as we do, but they like their Oreos. Only thing is, they like them with more interesting fillings than our plain old vanilla cream. Chinese Oreos have fillings of beautiful bright pink, blue and orange, in flavors like blueberry, mango-orange and strawberry-raspberry. Sounds weird, but stop and think a minute. Doesn’t orange pair very nicely with chocolate flavor? And what’s a Fig Newton if not a softer, non-chocolatey version of a fruity sandwich cookie. Granted, the bright colors of the fillings of Chinese Oreos are hardly natural, but so what? Oreos aren’t natural to begin with.

Getting thirsty? In Saudi Arabia, where the desert heat and dryness are legendary, the most popular drink is Tang. Not the familiar orange Tang, but lemon-pepper tang! That’s right! The container even has a picture of a pepper shaker on it.
Strangely, in informal taste-tests using Americans, the lemon-pepper Tang proved to be a big favorite… possibly because nobody could taste the pepper. Which begs the question: Why include the pepper at all if it can’t be tasted? Or am I asking the wrong question? Should I instead ask whether Saudis have a better sense of taste than we do? Or is the pepper some kind of in-joke that only Saudis would get? Hmmm.

And if you are in the mood for a retro Russian snack, there is an old Soviet-era treat that is still very popular. It’s essentially stale bread coated with oil and toasted very crisp. At first glance this sounds like a wretched thing to eat, something to fill the empty spaces during a state-sponsored food shortage.
But wait. What do we eat that is made pretty much the same way? I know! Croutons!
Bon appetit.

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4 Responses to “Foreign Snacks That Maybe Aren’t So Very Foreign”

  1. Wat Ever Says:

    Pickled cucumber? You mean dill pickles? THE HORROR!

    • ghostscribe Says:

      Maybe, but then again, maybe Russians have a slightly different idea of pickled cucumber than we do. Less dill-y, perhaps? They’re very fond of pickled anything.

  2. ghostscribe Says:

    Maybe, or maybe Russians have a slightly different notion of pickled cucumbers than we do. Less dill-y, perhaps? They are very fond of pickled anything in Russia.

  3. The Abominable Dr Phibes Says:

    Retro Russian snack sounds infinitely tastier than the now-retro American college repast I enjoyed: cold ketchup on stale white bread, eaten al fresco – on a third floor back porch landing.

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