My wife was the first to notice this product at the Bellevue Uwajimaya—sriracha popcorn.
Whoa! My favorite movie snack combined with my favorite hot sauce? Could I resist? One guess. Here was another innovative snack that intruded into my life after stumbling upon furikake potato chips.
Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Hot Sauce (Photo credit: GARNET)
If you’re a chilihead (or more properly, chilehead) and even if you’re not, you’ve probably noticed the ubiquity of Huy Fong sriracha sauce, more commonly known as Rooster Sauce. Made in Rosemead, California, far from Thailand from where sriracha originates, the bottle is found as a condiment in so many restaurants that it should be giving ketchup a run for its money. It’s basically a spicy sauce made from red chiles, vinegar, garlic, salt and sugar. Some people put it on almost everything they eat. I love it, but I use it only on foods that it complements, while other foods call for Huy Fong’s other, more vinegary chile sauce, sambal oelek, that had its origin in Indonesia. A little mixed in with ketchup is, for me, a great way to polish off fries. Ditto with hash browns.
In a stroke of inspiration, J&D’s Down Home Enterprises, a local Seattle company and maker of the popular Baconnaise and potentially even more popular Baconlube, in partnership with a company called The Oatmeal (which in its twisted way also adores Rooster sriracha), combined the essential ingredients of Rooster sauce with popcorn to come up with a good snack. If it were just plain spicy, it might only motivate chiliheads, but the addition of the right amount of sugar makes it appealing to a broader public. It has garlicky flavor and good heat but not enough to blister the tongue or strip a cast-iron stomach. The only defect is one that plagues all packaged popcorns—lots of popcorn bits at the bottom of the bag that are the spawn of rough handling.
Tourists buy inexpensive souvenirs (and lots of crappy stuff) at the International Market Place, strategically situated in Waikiki on Kalakaua. The most enduring sight here is the giant 100-year-old banyan tree that seems to cover the entire open-air market like an enormous umbrella. Every time we’re in Waikiki, we find ourselves walking through here, not because it’s a destination, but because it’s along the way on several of our walks in the area. We’ve never purchased anything here, but we did have cocktails and snacks at a restaurant bar back in 2009.
Late this afternoon, as we were making our way past the vendors’ carts and tourist shops, we noticed a roped-off area that seemed to be preparing for some kind of food bazaar. Then, it occurred to me that this must be the Thursday afternoon farmers market. Sure enough, it was.
The usual island fruits made their appearance: papayas, mangoes, bananas, pineapples. One man was skillfully slicing up pineapples into chunks that were packaged into plastic tubs. Some containers had the fruit sprinkled with li hing mui powder. The foods were of a different sort than you would find at the KCC Farmers Market—snack foods, mostly deep-fried, and many that are comfort food to the locals, who seemed to make up most of the shoppers. A people’s market. Instead of going out to dinner somewhere, we made a decision to purchase a few snacks here to take back to the condo, including li hing pineapples. All of it was pretty good food, but ones that you don’t want to make a habit of eating often.
The International Market Place has been demolished to make way for yet another shopping mall, this one with Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Macy’s. Eh what? Despite how tourists may have seen it as an open-air market of trinket shops and stalls, it was too valuable a piece of property not to be claimed by developers eager to cash in on the big-spending Asians (Japan, Korea and China) who are ever desirous of labels that can be bought cheaper in Honolulu than back at home. These small shops were at least owned and operated by locals. Gone, too, is the Farmers Market with all its ethnic food.
One of the extras of Hawaiian Airlines service is the Pau Hana snack bar area at the rear of the airplane. There, you can purchase a variety of beverages and snacks or even pick up a gift or two, including leis. I was curious about the concept, so I went to check it out soon after the announcement was made that the snack bar was open. Two flight attendants were busy ringing up purchases.
One of the snacks I noticed in the basket were Kona Furikake Potato Chips, which I’d never heard of. Being a fan of furikake, I was intrigued and bought a bag. It would be easy to overdo a product like this, especially since furikake, a condiment used for sprinkling on steamed rice, by itself is pretty salty and almost always contains MSG. So my first thought was that the chips likewise would be over-seasoned. Instead, the recipe is an example of restraint. While the marketing on the bag claims a special process to reduce oil and enhance crispiness, the chips to the naked eye appeared to be no less oily than any other fried chip, though they didn’t leave big oil stains on a napkin like some. The flavor, on the other hand, was quite good. With the right amount of salt, they had a hint of sweetness and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Finally, to justify the furikake label, each chip was dusted with powdered seaweed flakes (aonori) that rounded out its taste profile. That’s it, no other ingredients.
Kona Furikake Potato Chips
When I get back to Honolulu later in the trip, I’ll have to look for the product at Foodland, where by the way you can pick up Ted’s chocolate haupia pie.