OAHU, HAWAII — If you’ve spent any time snacking in Hawaii, you’re only too familiar with those ubiquitous bags of taro and sweet potato chips by Hawaiian Chip Company.
They’re irresistible — big, crunchy slices of speckled taro, orange sweet potato and deep purple sweet potato fried up crisp with the taste of their natural root veggie sweetness shining through.
They’re so beloved that whenever we travel to Hawaii, my husband’s sister always pleads for us to tote back a few bags to California for her, since you can’t get them outside of the islands unless you mail-order them.
What’s even better, though — is getting them fried fresh to order.
You can do just that at the Hawaiian Chip Company Store, in a warehouse district in Honolulu so tucked away that you wonder while if you’re in the right place or not.
We visited the small store storefront a few weeks ago during my trip to Hawaii that was at the invitation of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. It’s open Monday through Saturday, where taro, and orange and purple sweet potatoes are sliced and fried to order for you. Unfortunately, you can’t watch the process, as it happens behind closed doors.
Just place your order. We paid $5 for a bag (about 5-6 ounces) and waited 5-10 minutes for the chips to be ready. As you wait, you can enjoy a small, free sample bag of chips from the counter. Or get free tastes of the hot sauces, salad dressings and dipping sauces the store also sells.
When your chips are ready, they are given to you in a paper bag, still hot. Now comes the fun part. There’s a shelf of shakers and hot sauces to allow you to season your chips however you please. Add a little Zesty Garlic, some Kiaw BBQ, Cinnamon Sugar or the Nori that I chose that’s full of umami-rich seaweed flavor.
On Fridays and Saturdays, you also can enjoy Island Brew coffee at the bar.
The fried-to-order bag of chips is pretty sizable to finish in one sitting. But if you transfer your chips to a sealable plastic bag, they’ll stay quite crisp for at least a week.
For a chip connoisseur, it doesn’t get any fresher than that.
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Hankering for Hawaii Part V: The Posh and the Pig