A potato chip is nothing but thin slices of potatoes which are dried in the sun and then fried in hot oil to become nice, crispy and a ready to eat snack. For health conscious people these slices of potatoes are baked rather than fried in oil. Earlier potato chips were available in only one flavour that was salted but with time, changes occurred both in production technologies and taste of the consumer. Today different flavours of chips are available from classic salted to tangy tomato to cream and onion etc. Potato chips are a food item which is consumed by both children and adults and has a market which covers almost the entire world. In the west, chips became a common snack both in households and in the food market. Studies states that in 2005 total revenues gained from the sale of potato chips alone accounted to almost US$16.49 billion.
There is a popular tale which talks about the birth of potato chips into this world. According to the tale it was on August 24 1853 in Saratoga Springs New York where an event took place. The credit for the introduction of this food item is given to George Crum who was a half black half Native American who was a cook by profession and worked in his own lake side restaurant called the Moonlake house. A customer had entered the restaurant but was not happy with the dishes in the menu card. So in order to appease the unhappy customer, Crum decide to try something new. He cut the potatoes into very thin slices and then fried them till they became nice and crispy. He then seasoned them with salt and gave it to the customer. The customer was very happy with the new dish and that’s how potato chips were introduced. The name given to these chips by the locals was Saratoga chips which remained till the mid 20th century. In 1973 St. Regis Paper Company which is responsible for the packaging of these chips revealed that the story was true and that Crum was a cook who by 1850 owned his own restaurant and the customer who had come that day was Cornelius Vanderbilt who was a local. With years going by chips became so famous that it began to spread in the neighboring regions as well. It was no longer a dish listed in the menu cards but had come out of restaurants to become products of mass production for home consumption. The Dalton which is an Ohio based chips producing company is considered to be the oldest in the United States, established in 1910. Chips soon became popular and in demand among the masses. Many industries which produced chips allowed their workers to take back home a small quantity of the produce. This was done both as a publicity stunt and secondly it helped to ensure employee satisfaction. Chips were sold in markets in tin cans earlier but the problem with this system was that the chips lying in the base used to become stale and crumbled. Later specially designed colorful plastic bags were introduced which were filled with nitrogen gas before sealing the ends which not only helped in increasing its shelf life but also helped the chips to remains nice and crispy and in shape avoiding crumbling.
Back in India, other than the potato chips we also have the banana chip which is a very important component of the south Indian cuisine. The basic technique of preparation remains the same where ripe bananas are sliced into thin pieces, dried in the sun and then fried in oil. These chips can be sugar or jagery coated or can be spicy or salted depending upon the taste preference of the consumers. Usually prepared in the Indian state of Kerala, these can be used either as a snack or with proper meals.
The best part about these chips, may it be potato or banana, is that they can be prepared at home and the technique for both the types is almost the same. In order to prepare potato chips at home the directions are given below.
- First slice the potatoes finely.
- Place the slices in cold water which is salted and boil it. When the chips have boiled well, drain the water and transfer the contents into another bowl.
- Now add oil to the chips and mix well. After this add spices and any other extra ingredient like herbs, cheese etc and finally add salt. Remember whatever you add mix well so that every single chip is covered evenly.
- Spread the chips on the baking platter and put them in a hot 200c oven and let them bake for about 20mins.
- Shake or stir in between thought not compulsory.
- Keep a check on the chips in order to avoid overcooking. The chips when done look light brown in colour and are crispy and crunchy when eaten.
- After 20mins take out the chips and they are ready to be served.
Homemade potato chips can be enjoyed along with different items like eggs, meat or a cheese dip and can be also eaten on their own.
Since potato chips come under the category of fried food, they pose serious health concerns for the public. A recent study reveals that potato chips are the biggest contributors to weight gain and the high starch content in potatoes chips is the main reason behind tooth decay. Other related health issues are high blood pressure caused by the high sodium content which is found in the salt used during the preparation of these chips.
However due to all such concerns many companies invested in research and development in order to produce chips which provide the same or more level of satisfaction but the pose less risk than before.