Vicky Tan’s number-one chip of choice is the kettle-style Hickory Barbeque crisp by Boulder Canyon. “These chips have the perfect balance of sweet and smokiness flavours, and Boulder Canyon chips have that thickness that I love, with a great crunch.”
The Colorado-born chip is made in the US, in Pennsylvania, and her number-two fave is also from overseas: Walker’s Prawn Cocktail.
“I still remember the first time I tried these when I was in the UK,” Tan tells Broadsheet. “I bought them having mistaken them for salt and vinegar (they’re the same pink as Australian Smith’s S&V chips). The chip itself is pretty standard – a thin cut Lay’s (Smith’s) chip, but the tomato-based tanginess really hits the spot for me … They feel extra special as they are near impossible to find in Melbourne and Australia.”
Tan lives in Melbourne and is a self-confessed “savoury snack kind of gal”. “If you put a packet of chips in front of me, I can polish it off pretty quickly. I used to hide packets of chips in my study growing up, to avoid mum telling me I’ve had too many, again.”
In between finishing her PhD at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (exploring how the liver regenerates after injury) she devours packs of chips and then, under the @chipsconnoisseur handle, rates them out of five.
Each post starts with the basics – brand, flavour and place of origin – and then Tan jots down a flavour description. “Extremely zingy and incredibly lights up every taste bud in your mouth” is how she describes her third favourite chip, Chappy’s Mango Habanero, which is made in Melbourne.
Other categories she bases her ranking on include “texture/crunch”, “packet aesthetics” and “would I seek these out”. Chappy’s Mango Habanero scored highly in this last category. “Absolutely – definitely one of the best chips I’ve had in a long, long time. And extra points for being made in Melbourne. Rating: 4.8/5.” (For your ease of mind, Tan rated Boulder Canyon’s Hickory Barbeque 5/5.)
Tan had always dreamed of writing about her chip obsession, but it wasn’t until she fell sick when travelling in South America that she had some down time to begin. She hit up local shops to find packets she couldn’t get at home and kicked off @chipsconnoisseur with Lay’s Jamón Serrano. “Crunch: Good, doesn’t cut your mouth. Would I buy again: Probably not. Rating: 3.5/5.”
“I believe that chips are a great reflection of the culture of where you live or may be travelling through, and I’ve always wanted to write my chip thoughts down. My goal with @chipsconnoisseur has always been to try as many chips from different places and review them so that I can find the best (and my favourite) chip in the world but, more importantly, to help others make an informed choice when they’re choosing what chips to buy.”
In Tan’s opinion, what makes a good chip is flavour distribution. “There is nothing worse than having one chip that’s completely coated and then to crunch into one that has zero flavour immediately afterwards”. Potato quality is also key. “I prefer kettle-cooked chips with a slightly thicker cut and good folds that give it maximum crunch.” And she’s a fan of tangier chips – your tomato-y-based flavours or salt and vinegar – but doesn’t want her chips to be overpowered by that flavour.
Her pursuit has seen her give Evercrisp’s Tuti-Fruiti from Chile 1.5/5 (“would I seek these out: solid no, I couldn’t finish the packet”); Pringles’s Peking Duck Rice Fusion from the UK 3/5 (“wouldn’t be my go-to, but pretty yum overall. Will stick to getting real Peking Duck”); Smith’s Lamington from Australia 1/5 (“packet aesthetics: the only saving grace of these chips. Highly rate the packaging, the glittery purple is super cool”); and Original Pom-Bar chips from Germany 4.2/5 (“a no-fuss chip, very plain but with a great tasty saltiness to them”).
She’s not someone who’ll buy chips online. “I think browsing the chips aisle adds to the excitement and joy of trying new chips as well,” she says. “IGAs have the best selection of fancy and unusual chips, but I also love the variety of flavours and chip types that can be found in Asian grocers. I am also grateful to all my friends who used to bring back chips from their holidays (pre-Covid) for me to try and to those who have posted me chips.”