Culture Grocery Packaged Food

Asia’s Most Hyped Snack Is Finally Available In The US

If you’ve been to Singapore or Malaysia in recent years, you’ve probably caught onto the hype that is IRVINS Salted Egg snacks. Started in 2015, the chip and snack company has already grown into an international phenomenon, with a presence already in six other countries, including the Philippines, Japan, and Thailand.

The snacks have been notoriously hard to bring into the US beforehand, with the best option involving smuggling them through customs in the past. Those trying to purchase them to bring back often had to wait in long lines or go home empty-handed after they sold out.

As of today, however, IRVINS Salted Egg are about to become a lot more accessible to US consumers, as they’ll be launching in stores around the country.

Photo courtesy of IRVINS Salted Egg

For those unfamiliar with the concept of salted egg, salted egg yolks are a popular ingredient in Southeast Asia, often used as a condiment or in small amounts. IRVINS founder Irvin Gunawan expanded on that flavor at his Malaysian and Singaporean seafood restaurant in Singapore, serving salted egg chips as a side dish. The chips became immensely popular as a result, eventually blossoming into a full-on snack brand.

To start out, IRVINS will have a few varieties of chips up for sale in the US, while you’ll still have to get the fish skins they’re known for in the aforementioned way. The flavors they’ll have include the Salted Egg Potato and Salted Egg Cassava in both regular and Hot Boom (aka spicy) flavors, as well as their standard-flavored Crunchy Roll. Each bag comes with a suggested retail price of $8.99.

The initial launch is coming soon, with the first bags up for sale at spots like Bopomofo Cafe, a SoCal boba shop run by Philip Wang of YouTube and Wong Fu Productions fame. Bopomofo will get the first exclusive, with the chips for sale there indefinitely starting February 25th.

Bopomofo Cafe co-founder Eric Wang told Foodbeast that the exclusive partnership between his cafe and IRVINS has been in talks since early 2019, and will expand into more than just selling the currently existing flavors. When IRVINS does introduce other new products into the country, including the eventual release of its salted fish skin, Bopomofo will have them as well. The cafe will also be planning pop-ups in other major US cities and abroad (including Singapore) in the near future.

California and Texas will be up next, with San Francisco and Los Angeles getting the snacks in several Asian grocers. These include H Mart, 99 Ranch, Seafood City, Marina Foods, Lion Foods, and Pacific Super. In Texas, Ding Tea locations in Arlington and Garland will also be selling the chips out of their stores. You can expect all of these places to have IRVINS products by the beginning of March.

After that, IRVINS will launch in New York on March 15th at New Territories NYC before continuing their eventual expansion nationwide. They’ll also be announcing more info on the full USA rollout later on through their Instagram and Facebook feeds.

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This YouTuber’s Boba Shop Is Pioneering American-Born Chinese Cuisine

Chinese and Taiwanese food is slowly starting to have a renaissance movement in the United States. This is clear from the prevalence of renowned dim sum chains like Din Tai Fung, the emergence of hot pot, and the proliferation of boba shops across the country.

Despite all of this, the most popular Chinese dishes in the USA are still Chinese-American, rather than Chinese. General Tso’s Chicken and orange chicken dominate the palates, all because Chinese food in the US was engineered around Western palates first, making the food sweeter and less authentic to what you can get in China and Taiwan.

In Los Angeles, restaurants are starting to open up that push back against that concept. Instead of engineering Chinese food to work for American tastes, they’re twisting up beloved American dishes to work with the traditional flavors of China and Taiwan. While you might expect to find this through the lens of fine dining, one of the pioneers of this movement is a small boba shop and cafe in the heart of LA’s San Gabriel Valley.

The spot is called Bopomofo Cafe, a modern take on boba and American-born Chinese food. Bopomofo, which is named after the first four letters of the Taiwanese Mandarin alphabet, is co-owned by Philip Wang, one of the main creative forces behind Asian-American YouTube and digital media powerhouse Wong Fu Productions. Wang, together with his co-owner Eric Wang and chef Andrew Park, have put together a revolutionary menu that fuses Chinese, Taiwanese, and American together, but not catering to the “American runs on sweet” mantra.

“We always thought that there’s new American food,” Wang told Foodbeast, “but there’s no new real Asian-American food, and that’s kind of how we saw our menu.”

As a result, you get dishes that explode with equal, stunning amounts of creativity and flavor. The gold standard at Bopomofo is the Ma Po Tofu Tater Tots, which swaps out the Sichuan classic in a modern rendition of chili cheese tots. Since mapo tofu is typically served over rice, the crunch and fattiness of the tots is an unexpected yet welcome contrast that elevates both dishes this one is inspired by.

Other such innovative items on Bopomofo’s menu include a Walnut Shrimp Burger, nachos made from Chinese scallion pancakes and topped with braised pork belly, a fried chicken sandwich modeled on Taiwanese flavors and cooking techniques, and a “MOFO Club” inspired by Wang’s travels to Taiwan.

Bopomofo keeps that creativity going in their drink selection as well. Whether it’s a beet-colored Taro Milk or a dreamsicle-like take on Orange Bang! (called Orange Wang), you get nostalgia yet novelty in every sip and bite of the cuisine served up here.

With that creativity, Wang and his team are pushing the envelope of what it can mean to combine American, Chinese, and Taiwanese flavors. By staying true to core Chinese and Taiwanese flavors, but still using ingredients familiar to Americans, the food here becomes a potential pathway to explore authentic Chinese and Taiwanese tastes through an American lens.

To learn more about Bopomofo, watch the above episode of Foodbeast’s News Bites that features the cafe.