Pepsi Cheetos and 10 Other Wacky Snacks

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—People are weird. That may seem like an inelegant way to begin, but there's no more direct way to say it: we're a strange lot, myself included, and as a relatively direct result, we occasionally purchase some very strange things to eat.

Americans spend $151 per week on food according to a Gallup Poll, with 12% of our total food money at the supermarket used for packaged snacks.

But wander down to your local supermarket, and it's not hard to find some truly bizarre ideas boxed up on the shelf. Some are better than others, but every now and again a company comes up with one that truly takes the cake (albeit a lima bean cake with Tabasco sauce filling).

This is a tribute to those acts of inspired lunacy: eleven absolutely bizarre flavor combinations in snack form whose very existence probably poses more questions than answers about consumer dynamics.

Without further ado...

1. Pepsi Cheetos

They're made in Japan. Whether or not they're a good idea is another issue altogether, although that should go without saying for pretty much everything on this list. Known as Pepsi Shuwa Shuwa according to Time and the Daily Mail, this snack is exactly what it sounds like: Cheetos puffs flavored to taste something like a soft drink.

 

Rather than dusting the snack with cheese powder like normal, Frito-Lay coats the "Pepsito" with a colorless cola powder to keep the puff an appetizingly grim off-white. Add a little bit of fizz and seal the whole thing up, and you can call it a snack. At least, the good people over at Cheetos do.

Fortunately, there are also no plans for them to ever see our shores, so any Americans who want to tempt fate have just two options: grab a ticket to Tokyo, or just dunk a Cheeto in a can of soda and hope for the best.

2. Bacon and Maple Syrup Ale

Does everything really taste better with bacon?

That certainly seems to be the general consensus these days, with everything from chocolate to bath soap available infused with bacon. Sometimes the result is bizarre magic, like the bacon chocolate bar mentioned above. With others, the meat really should have been left with a side of eggs. For those who walk out of the shower smelling like fried pork, I have ideas about why you aren't meeting many girls.

The baconnaise can move over, however, because we now have a new entry onto the list of bizarre bacon products. Enter the Bacon and Maple Syrup Ale.

Produced by Oregon's Rogue Ales, this beer is all too real and exactly what it sounds like: an ale featuring the flavors of smoked bacon and maple syrup. Whether it's any good remains up to you. Maple syrup and bacon certainly go hand in hand and even work well baked into a loaf of bread. But in a beer? If you're ever in the Portland area, you can give it a try.

3. Seaweed Pringles

We're going to cover more than a couple of potato chips in this article, mostly because they're so easy to play around with. All of the flavors on a chip are artificial to begin with; anything beyond oil, salt and spuds has to come from somewhere else. By the time you've already begun trying out new ideas, why not just throw caution to the wind and just taste test whatever you can come up with? At least, I'm relatively certain this was the vision that gave us the seaweed Pringle.

This flavor comes from East Asia, and can be found from Thailand to Japan. Seen from a certain angle, it's not too surprising that someone decided to wed algae with a chip. Out in East Asia seaweed and potato chips are both popular foods, so it makes a certain sort of sense that they would eventually get together.

Sitting in the Midwestern United States, however, that doesn't make it seem any less weird. It would be like pulling a bag of broccoli Fritos off the shelf, or finding a lettuce flavored cookie. Just because a lot of people eat it, doesn't mean it makes sense on a chip.

4. Turkey and Gravy Soda

I'll be honest: I really didn't see this one coming.

The Seattle-based Jones soda is well known for often bizarre, but surprisingly successful, soda experiments, including flavors such as Blue Bubblegum, Green Apple and the particularly tasty Fufu Berry. Still, the company's inspired lunacy with the 2005 Jones Thanksgiving Holiday Pack stands as the hands-down winner. Featuring the flavors of a full course meal, this pack came with soda versions of:

  • Turkey and Gravy,
  • Wild Herb Stuffing,
  • Brussels Sprout,
  • Cranberry, and
  • Pumpkin Pie

No one should have ever tried to combine turkey with carbonation, but the Pumpkin Pie flavor was surprisingly good. The holiday sampler also came with suggested wine pairings for each course of the meal, because, after all, we're not barbarians.

5. Molasses Guinness Pear Doughnuts

Finally, a solution to mixing beer with your doughnuts that doesn't end in an intervention. A product of San Francisco's Dynamo Doughnuts, the molasses Guinness is truly a standout creation.

Dynamo starts with a fairly traditional molasses doughnut, not necessarily available everywhere but extraordinary when you can find one. From there the recipe calls for added Guinness soaked pears, crystallized ginger and a handful of raisins. Top the whole thing off with a beer glaze made out of yet more Guinness. It's easily the best excuse you've ever had to celebrate Irish culture at 8 a.m. outside of St. Patrick's Day.

If the Guinness breakfast isn't challenging enough for you, Dynamo has an answer there too: the Monte Cristo, a doughnut stuffed with ham, jam and gruyere cheese. Good luck.

6. Wasabi Kit Kat Bars

Japan loves its Kit Kat Bars for no reason I've ever been able to figure out entirely. Not that Kit Kats aren't good, but for some reason this island nation has gone absolutely crazy for the American treat. Japan has dozens of flavors of Kit Kat that never have, and likely will never, see our shores, and as a general rule, it's our loss. Obviously, some experiments are a swing-and-a-miss, but somehow Nestle manages to get it right a surprising amount of the time, such as with the local flavors orange, cinnamon cookie and green tea.

The strangest of them all, however, has to be the wasabi. Better known as "the little green sauce of pain" that comes with every sushi dish, wasabi is related to horseradish and used by Japanese food in much the same way. It has a strong, fiercely hot flavor, and a little bit goes a very long way. It's a signature element of much Japanese cooking and should definitely be used with care by anyone who wants to keep a set of working taste buds.

Somehow, this got folded into four bars of chocolate and a cookie. I suppose all I can say is that this is about as Japanese a version of the Kit Kat as I can imagine.

7. Cola Wine

Sorry, France: this one's going to hurt.

Earlier this year, Bordeaux vineyard Haussmann Famille announced its newest vintage, the Rouge Sucette. Roughly translated as the "Red Lollipop," this line of red wine comes with a fairly unusual ingredient: cola. A bottle comes with about 75% wine with the remaining 25% consisting of water with a hefty measure of cola for flavoring to give it the sweet taste from which it takes its name.

Has there really been a pent up demand for Coke flavored wine? Are people sitting around cafes and restaurants slyly asking their water to bring them a glass of the house red with a good cola pairing? Do they at least use decaf?

Like I promised--questions arise...the mind can wander...

8. Lox Ice Cream

Courtesy of Max and Mina's ice cream shop in Queens, New York, I'll let the lox ice cream speak for itself: I'm not sure whether the taste of smoked salmon is noticeably improved by the vanilla ice cream, but apparently someone, somewhere woke up one day and realized that what ice cream had been missing was cold fish all along.

To make the meal complete, this treat comes with cream cheese and salt. You bring the bagel.

9. Crab Lays

We're back to Japan.

I'd like to think that, to the Japanese, our popular snacks look just as weird as theirs do to us. I imagine a writer somewhere in Tokyo right now coming up with his list of the eleven most bizarre American snack foods. "Salsa," he writes. "This popular sauce has overtaken ketchup (thank God) as the most popular American condiment, yet it's nothing more than a bizarre puree of vegetables, salt and sugar. What's worse, they typically ruin what little health benefit it has by pouring it over concoctions of rice, beans and melted cheese."

"And don't even get me started on the hot dogs!"

Well, in honor of this nameless Japanese colleague, here are the hot and spicy Crab Lays. This bag of chips has about as much to do with actual crab as an order of the Rangoon does from your local Chinese food store. Dusted with crab-like flavoring and some mysterious hot powders, this surprisingly popular snack food has made its way over to the mainland as well and is available through much of southeast Asia.

Disclaimer: I do not recommend the hot and spicy crab Lays.

10. Watermelon Oreos

This one is actually a surprisingly good idea. It's gotten some bad press lately, but if you give the watermelon Oreo a try, I think you'll find you like it.

It starts with vanilla Oreo cookies rather than traditional chocolate ones, and the filling is a red and green cream that's supposed to taste like a summery bite of watermelon. I'm not willing to give Nabisco credit for getting that right. I suppose with a bit of imagination, and heavy suggestions from the packaging, then yes, I can see where you might get a bit of watermelon. Really, though, the middle tastes like a jolly rancher or a stick of bubble gum. It works surprisingly well, all things considered.

That's not to say that trying to stick a watermelon in the middle of an Oreo actually makes much sense. Still, this one is somehow (kind of) a win, and worth picking up if you're curious.

11. Yogurt & Mint Doritos (Plus Black Pepper and Salt)

This is a two part entry--both Doritos, both with their own special brand of insanity to offer.

Yogurt and mint Doritos fill the long-anticipated intersection between nacho chips and Turkish food. I'll confess I've never tried them myself, but imagine they might not taste too different from a cool ranch flavor if I ever get my hands on one. (In fact, if you think about, does a salad dressing inspired, cheese flavored chip really make much more sense than Turkish yogurt?)

I'd like to take some shots at the yogurt and mint flavored Doritos, but I'm not sure I really can. As bizarre as this combination seems, there's a part of me that really wants to try one. The next time I'm in Turkey, I may have to head to the nearest convenience store.

For the second part to this entry, we have the Japanese black pepper and salt Doritos with a hint of bamboo charcoal, not because the flavor is bizarre, but because the packaging looks like the result of an ad agency's fever dream. Enjoy.

--Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.

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