Featured Products: The Best Filipino Chips According to Americans
Americans may have invented the potato chips, but you can tell Filipino chips are a little bit on the “extra” and “creative” side of guilty pleasures. We call our crunchies “chicheria,” a term that may have derived from the Spanish word that refers to public places—much like the Western saloon—where the people of Inca civilization could gather to eat and drink. The drink is called “chicha,” a fermented or non-fermented beverage made from corn.
Chicha also happens to be Filipino slang for our crispy snacks. Perhaps we called it “chicheria” because we prefer sharing a large bag of chips with friends while enjoying a beer or two. We don’t mind having several hands fishing for more after they licked the thick coating of flavored powder off of their fingers. Speaking of flavors, Filipinos are crazy about cheese. No, seriously, we have brands that are flavored with “ultimate cheddar cheese” and some that promise to be the “cheesiest.” You walk into a Filipino store, and you see cheese-flavored chips everywhere. The cheese flavor suits our cultural taste—we like it salty, but don’t forget that we have a sweet tooth, too.
It is not surprising that almost all Filipino brands of savory bites are made from corn. After all, corn or mais, though not endemic to the archipelago, is one of the most harvested agricultural produce. Local farmers have less incentive to grow potatoes, given that the climate in the Philippines gets only a few months of rainy season every year. On the other hand, corn arrived the Philippine shore through the galleon trade and now thrives in abundance after more than a century of cultivation and research.
The Visayas and Mindanao islands are hosts to vast mais plantations in the country. Corn has adapted to the tropical climate and is much more productive and efficient than rice or potatoes—yielding about fifteen million calories per acre on average. When it reaches the table, corn is a better nutrient-dense alternative to rice; it has become the staple of the Filipino diet in rural areas. When processed, the corn chips are much more filling and slightly lower in calories than potato chips.
So, no, we don’t eat octopus crackers for snacks. Okay, you know what, we do have tilapia- and prawn-flavored ones and even vegetable-flavored puffs—something that non-Asian tastebuds may find odd and unappealing. But don’t let that spoil your curiosity. For the most part, a lot of Filipino snacks taste similar to American chips. Filipino chips' texture is often compared to big US brands like Lays, Doritos, and Cheetos. Some chips taste lighter and less seasoned, which may be a selling point to Americans who want their hand inside a bag of chips and feel less guilty about it.
Only a few companies have cornered the chips industry and saturated the market with brands that hooked generations of avid consumers. The most well-known companies are Universal Robina Corporation, Liwayway Marketing Corporation, Leslie Corporation, and Regent Foods Corporation. Below we list down the best chips brands the Philippines has to offer and what our American friends have to say:
1. Regent’s GOLDEN SWEET CORN
Shaped like cheese balls but very much taste as indicated. “It does taste like corn!” Americans exclaimed with delight. Golden sweet corn may not be easily the most preferred snack in the Philippines, but Americans who tried it loved that it tastes like corn on the cob. The smell gives that away too. Americans describe that Golden Sweet Corn has a similar taste to Kellogg’s Corn Pops and Kix Breakfast Cereal. Some say the texture reminds them of Cheetos. One thing is for sure: Golden Sweet Corn has made Filipinos proud.
2. Jack ‘n Jill’s CHIPPY CORN CHIPS (BARBECUE FLAVOR)
Chippy is one of the most well-known products under the Jack ‘n Jill brand of Universal Robina Corporation. No, scratch that. It is the icon of corn chips in the Philippines. The original barbecue flavor is easily distinguishable by its bright red packaging. The shape and color of the corn chips look exactly like Fritos. In the texture department, Americans noticed that it felt a lot similar to Doritos. However, unlike Fritos and Doritos, Chippy Corn Chips look pale in contrast as they are slightly less seasoned. The chips give off just a mild hint that you’re getting a barbecue flavor as promised. You’ll never expect the strength of zesty barbecue flavor that somewhat ends with sweet and tangy notes that lingers for very long. The chips produce a softer crunch than Fritos and melt slightly faster in the mouth. Overall, Americans liked Chippy because it tasted familiar—a lesser version of their beloved brands. Following the success of its barbecue flavor, Chippy has expanded the horizons with its Garlic and Vinegar, Chili and Cheese, and Beef and Chili flavors.