As everyone knows, we're about to enter the season of overindulgence; belts will be loosened, sugar stocks will go up, and gym attendance will go down. I'm personally not stricken with a sweet tooth; my favorite guilty pleasures are of the savory kind. Greasy fries and crispy onion rings rank high on my list, but what reigns is the almighty JC: Jalapeño Chip.
It all started decades ago when jalapeño chips were hard to come by, especially in the Kerschen household. Growing up in a family of seven children, I was rarely allowed the privilege of junk food, except for the occasional box of Cost Cutter's version of Oreo's. And what's worse, this was the heyday of bad taste, New Coke, and over-processed junk food: the '80s. However, a special few times of the year, we kids were rationed out some brand-name processed grub, of which my favorite was always a red-and-white bag of Bob's Jalapeño Chips.
During the summer when I was a child, Mom and Dad would arbitrarily decide their kids needed to see more of the world besides the Houston suburbs, so we'd pack a cooler of goodies, jalapeño chips in tow, and make our pilgrimage to the salty, sandy, wonderland: Galveston Island. We'd jam our scrawny selves into the station wagon along with the cooler, a neighor or cousin or two, and head down to what felt like a faraway paradise. I remember holding onto my Barbie, markers, rosary, or whatever object was small enough to fit on my lap, as I was sitting on someone else's lap, while they were fighting with another brother or sister, wondering when, when, when, could I escape to freedom!? The car ride from hell was worth it in the long run. Not only was I at the beach, but more importantly, if I could swim and stake out Mom and the picnic blanket simultaneously, I'd arrive by the time she opened up that bag of jalapeno chips and stuff as many greasy, wolf-like handfuls as I could down my throat while washing it down with a nice, chilled Fresca. Life was grand, salty, and spicy -- with a little bit of sneaky plotting.
One of the best things about being an adult is the freedom to eat junk food as I like (in moderation, of course) so here I give you my list of the Top 5 jalapeño chips available in Houston:
5. Pringles I thought I'd go out on a limb and see what Pringles had to offer. These are what you might expect from Pringles -- cute packaging, but a little too healthy to be a guilty pleasure. These have a very powerful sour cream and onion taste. They need some work.
4. Lay's Kettle Cooked
Chip texture was solid and crispy, but sadly I did not detect the jalapeño. The strong onion flavoring tasted like a potato chip version of Funyun's.
3. Zapp's Not bad as a chip, but still not sufficiently spicy. Very crunchy with a lemon-lime zing, but very little jalapeño zapp.
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2. Papa Toreada's
Double layer crunch, a bit citric at first, but the zesty green chile pepper kick sneaks up at the end with some serious heat.
1. Bob's Texas Style
This is what I'm talking about. Most complex of the five: Indian curry spice nuance and real jalapeño pepper heat . Greasy enough to make it junk food, fiery enough to call it a jalapeño chip.