Salted egg, the porridge-enriching stable of our grandmothers’ kitchens for generations, has been revitalized over the past year into a variety of trendy snacks.
In Thailand, the earliest record of salted egg being eaten is kai kem chaiya, introduced by a Cantonese migrant who settled in Chaiya, Surat Thani in the 1920s. Now a new salted-egg wave has swept in from Singapore, with a snack of fish skin coated in salted egg igniting the craze before inspiring other sweet-and-salty dishes across the Southeast Asian peninsula.
Since mid-2018, Bangkok’s food scene has seen a fierce battle between kai kem and purple potatoes. Although bubble tea is the more common sight, the yolk has quietly infiltrated the city’s food scene in lattes, donuts, ice cream, sandwiches, instant noodles, and even McFries.
To help readers navigate the craze, Khaosod English tested four salted-egg potato chip brands and rated them across three criteria: salted-eggness, texture, and nutrition.
We chose potato chips instead of the more popular fish skin as a testbed for salted egg because of availability, and because the neutral taste of chips allows for a precise appreciation of the flavor and aroma of salted egg.
Irvins stands out as the best but most expensive of the bunch. The first bite is punched with a slight sweetness, before an abrupt zing keeps the aftertaste interesting. Potato fans may not pleased with the dense texture, made from potatoes sourced from China, while those addicted to Irvins fish skin might turn their backs on the comparatively mild flavour of chips.
Still the balanced taste coupled with generous coating make Irvins a clear winner above the domestic brands we tested. The higher price is understandable given the brand is imported from Singapore: a small bag (105 grams) costs 210 baht, while a large bag (230 grams) costs 420 baht. They are available at Irvins outlets in Central World, Siam Paragon, and EmQuartier.
Cafe Amazon’s offering is flavorful, but is overwhelmed with a sweetness that completely buried any pungency – a key flavor boasted by many salted-egg brands. Like Irvins, the chips are nicely coated with seasoning and small bits of curry leaves.
Once again though, heavy coating is a consolation for the chip’s texture, which is even more dense and chewy than Irvins. Hungry snackers may appreciate the convenience of being able to buy salted-egg chips at Cafe Amazons nationwide, but salted-egg fanatics may find the chain’s rendition hard to swallow.
A 40 gram packet costs 55 baht, with a 10 baht discount if purchased with a drink.
Unfortunately Lay’s is a letdown, a rare misstep for the veteran chips brand. Airy and crispy-thin potato slices are sprinkled evenly with seasoning, though the orange tinge of salted egg is almost invisible. The taste is sweet and tangy, but comes from artificial flavour rather than the creamy texture of real salted egg powder. A 46 gram packet costs 20 baht, while a 70 gram bag costs 30 baht.
Tasto Signature, the “premium” spin-off of the Thai brand, is actually insipid. It teases with the grainy touch of real salted-egg coating (six percent according to the ingredients list), with none of the expected sweet-and-salty taste. A 50 gram packet costs 30 baht.
None of the four brands were overly salty, but we did wash the tasting down with water as monosodium glutamate was used in all four packets.
There was no striking difference in fat or sodium across the brands. However, “genuine” salted egg means more cholesterol. Irvins contains 140 milligrams of cholesterol per 25 gram serving, while Cafe Amazon contains 56.25 milligrams. Tasto Signature contains 20 milligrams of cholesterol, while Lay’s contains none at all. The daily recommended intake for cholesterol is less than 300 milligrams.
Indeed, there are more salted egg brands out there in the market, but the four have been chosen because they can be readily brought off the store shelves. Whether salted egg will stand firmly in the food trend, like big brothers green tea and charcoal, is to be proven in a matter of time. But one thing we can be sure of is that these chips are highly addictive.
This article is unsponsored and we paid for the chips ourselves.