From a recent vacation in Hawaii, I brought back a sunburn, a few t-shirts, and three stowaway bags of potato chips.
When the TSA employee at the Honolulu airport grabbed my suitcase to scan it for hidden fruits and vegetables (and animals, I suppose), I had a moment of panic: Wait, are potato chips allowed on the plane?
The very kind gentleman stifled a laugh and assured me that, indeed, potato chips are A-OK to fly to the mainland.
Phew! My carry-on suitcase was 50 percent potato chips (and 25 percent soon-to-be melted souvenirs), so if they’d told me my crispy castaways were forbidden, I’d have had to stay in Hawaii forever. (Wait. Maybe they were offering me an out…)
I discovered during my time in The Aloha State the most perfect potato chip man has ever created: Maui Onion.
These sweet-salty chips offer a gentle tart bite—nowhere near as strong as, say, salt and vinegar—but with a delicate sweetness you know and love from sauteed onions. However, instead of slippery, slurpy onion pieces, this kick of flavor comes in a crispy, flakey potato chip.
Have I sold you yet?
I’ve never had a chip quite like this. It carries a bit of that smoky-sweet hit of a barbecue chip with the punch of garlic from a good ranch or sour cream and onion. It’s rounded out by a sweetness that doesn’t resemble any sugar or syrup. It’s more earthy sweet than sappy.
Maui onions are uniquely sweet with a low sulfur level. Hawaiian farmers attribute this unique onion flavor to the volcanic soil found around Mt. Haleakala on Maui. With this unique soil and warm, tropical climate, the onions grow rich and sweet, not bitter or pungent.
These onions are so special, Maui even holds a Maui Onion Festival, complete with onion-themed games and prizes, every spring. The Maui Onion chip flavor is a tribute to these special and prized allium family members.
I have good news, too, if you’re anxious to try Maui Onion chips for yourself: You don’t have to fly the thousands of miles to the islands yourself. You can place a quick order, and they’ll come right to your door.
Potato chip powerhouseFrito-Lay makes (in Texas, not in Hawaii) my favorite of all the Maui Onion chips I tried. It also happens to offer my favorite bag design, too. (A bonus, of course. The design makes no difference on the flavor.)
Find them here.
Hawaiian Kettle Style Sweet Maui Onion chips (not made in Hawaii) are thicker and crunchier than the flaky Frito Lay version.
Find them here.
Deep River (also not made in Hawaii) offers a Sweet Maui Onion option, too.
Find them here.
If you’re curious to try a chip not only inspired by, but actually made in Hawaii, I highly recommend Hawaiian Chip Company’s Kiawe BBQ Flavor Taro Chips. The flavor is not like Sweet Onion, but the chip experience is worth the shipping costs to get these unique snacks to the mainland. Taro, a tropical root vegetable that grows wild and is also farmed in Hawaii, is used in a variety of traditional Hawaiian dishes—and in some that are not so time-honored, like these crisps.
Here, the taro is hand-peeled and fried to a hearty crispness. Taro chips aren’t your typical potato chip though, so prepare yourself before you bite in. Their flavor is more nutty and earthy, and they are known by their tell-tale creamy color with purple lines throughout each piece. They’re not your standard chip, but they’re very Hawaiian—and more importantly, very delicious.