The Spinoff Reviews New Zealand #54: Hāngi flavoured chips

We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Ātea editor Leonie Hayden taste tests the new Heartland hāngi flavoured chips.

Heartland potato chips are my favourite potato chips, hands down. They’re often on sale, not too oily and are a sturdy, low-breakage chip which makes them great for dipping. The flavours are robust without being overpowering and you get a good amount in each bag. And until now I appreciated that they didn’t mess with the classic flavours too much or dress things up as ‘Sunday roast’, ‘chilli relish’, ‘smokey ribs’ or ‘Peri peri chicken’ – all of which are fancy ways of saying ‘BBQ flavour’.

They’re a South Canterbury-owned family business too, which is all lovely, salt of the earth stuff, although the family member profiles on the website are a bit vomity.

But now they have officially branched out into novelty flavour territory with a new hāngi flavour (without the macron, just sayin’).

What does hāngi taste like? It’s almost an existential question. Is it the ingredients, which can be any combination of pork, mutton, lamb, chicken, pumpkin, potato, kūmara, cabbage, carrot, onions, stuffing, or kererū (I kid! Although they do look delicious)? Is it the taste of smoke, soil and sulphur rising up through layers of damp sacking?

To me hāngi tastes like the first violet glimpse of dawn and four men in Swandris and stubbies sharing yarns around a large hole in the ground. It tastes like standing shoulder to shoulder with whānau in the hāngi assembly line: “You do the chicken; you do the kūmara.” It tastes like the 30 cups of tea it takes to get through the day because you gossiped until the wee small hours and then had to get up at daybreak. It tastes like the noise and laughter of 100 people sitting down to a meal. It tastes like happy exhaustion, comfort and togetherness.

Heartland hāngi flavoured chips taste like bacon and cabbage farts, but like, in a OK way. I mean, if you had to boil it down (ooh boil-up flavour?) to generic foodsafe flavourings then I suppose that’s as good as you’re going to get. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they were created by some lovely kids stretching their wings into entrepreneurship and wanting to capture something uniquely from Aotearoa, but distilling an experience with so many components into one flavour is almost like trying to come up with ‘favourite sweatshirt’ flavour, or ‘that feeling you get when you’re really tired but really happy’ flavour.

Verdict: It didn’t stop me from smashing the whole bag into my face, so what do I know?

Good or Bad: Tōna pai nei.


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