I am a sucker for good graphic design, so the packaging of Viva La Papa potato chips is what caught my eye first.
The bags of these Peruvian-made potato chips are decorated with a striking Peruvian textile print, and large, colorized black-and white photos of Peruvian farmers or cooks, wearing big smiles and indigenous clothing.
Then I opened a bag. And these are some seriously good potato chips, that just happen to have a great backstory.
Viva La Papa chips are hand-cooked in small batches, made in Peru from native white potatoes called capiros that were specially selected because they make good, crisp chips. They are hearty and thick, but not as brittle or overly crunchy as some other kinds of kettle chips. They come in three flavors so far, all of them with a decidedly Peruvian flair:
Sal de Maras – These are sprinkled with pink salt from the Andes (sal de maras); they are just lightly salty, so the flavor of the potato comes through loud and clear.
Anticucho BBQ – This the Peruvian version of barbecue; in a chip, it translates to a smoky chip with hints of chile, tomato and garlic.
Mixed Chillies and Lime – My favorite; these get a subtle heat from jalapenos and chipotles and just a dash of lime. They are not overly spicy, but the heat does catch up with you after you eat a handful or two.
Potatoes have a special place in Peruvian cuisine. Most food historians think Peruvian farmers were the first to ever cultivate potatoes, thousands of years ago, and today there are as many as 4,000 varieties of potatoes raised there.
The Viva La Papa company is working with individual farmers and an international potato institute, based in Lima, to ensure that they use only potatoes that are sustainable. They promise more flavors will be coming soon – including chips made from vegetables.