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Japanese Snack Review: Jaga Pokkuru
by Wataru Yonaiyama-Jackson
May 24, 2017
From Jakarta to Jaga
From being considered an ornamental plant to becoming a staple in international cuisine, the potato has had quite the journey. They were first brought to the port city Nagasaki by Dutch traders in 1598 from the Indonesian capital Jakarta, which explains the root (get it?) of jagatora–imo (now just jaga-imo) as the word for potato in Japanese. In the beginning, the potato plant was mostly purchased for decoration and collections. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 18th Century that farmers in Hokkaido began cultivating it as a food crop. The Japanese government also heavily encouraged potato production since rice crops performed poorly in the north.
Potatoes were originally considered ingredients for yōshoku (Western-style Japanese cuisine) but as popularity and accessibility increased, they were soon incorporated into washoku (traditional Japanese dishes). A personal favorite and essential “mother’s cooking” dish, nikujaga is a comforting blend of potatoes with meat in a dashi and sake-based broth.
Sweet, savory and soulful, potatoes have also found their place in the snack market with Hokkaido potato farms producing the crispiest chips in the country.
Founded on April 30, 1949, Calbee is a major Japanese snack food producer.
Products like "Kappa Ebisen" shrimp chips and "Saya-endo" snow pea crisps have become immensely popular throughout Asia and the United States. While its headquarters are based in Tokyo, many of the potato-based snacks are sourced from and produced in Calbee’s Potato Farm in Hakodate, Hokkaido.
Tasting the 'Tatos
Jaga Pokkuru at first sight looks just like a french fry, but this snack packs quite the surprise.
Hokkaido-grown Toyoshiro Potatoes are carefully selected and hand-cut before being specially prepared to achieve maximum flavor and texture. Roasted Okhotsk Salt distilled from Lake Saroma also plays a part in enhancing the flavor and adding another Hokkaido touch. Simply picking them up reveals a hard shell rather than the softness of a freshly cooked fry. On first bite, Jaga Pokkuru snaps with a satisfying, salty crunch. There’s a crisp, light quality of the chip that melts in the mouth, and a delicious bit of starchy potato chew at the finish.
While Calbee carries an array of flavored potato chips, these fries stand alone on the pure power of potato. You’d be hard pressed to leave Hokkaido without a few boxes of these addictive chips!