Banana chips get a global makeover

KOCHI, KERALA, 24/03/2016: A worker prepares banana chips in Kochi. Photo: H. Vibhu

KOCHI, KERALA, 24/03/2016: A worker prepares banana chips in Kochi. Photo: H. Vibhu | Photo Credit: Vibhu H

Watching how banana chips are made is akin to watching a performance. The cook works a slicer through peeled raw bananas at top speed. Thin discs of fruit fall in rapid succession into a container below. Then, they are dropped with a flourish into a giant wok of boiling coconut oil. As the golden-yellow chips crisp up, they are scooped out with a large perforated ladle, and tossed in the air for a microsecond before being laid out on a tray. One cannot help but marvel at the chip-maker’s skill.

For anyone who has grown up in Kerala, this is a familiar sight. The Malayali’s relationship with banana chips is unquestionable, not even potato in its fancy versions has been able to replace it. However, to appeal to a wider, and younger audience, the classic banana chips are now being reinterpreted.

A spicy twist

Alappuzha-based startup Beyond Snacks has come out with banana chip flavours such as peri-peri, salt and black pepper, and sour cream, onion and parsley. “The idea was to give the time-tested snack a global makeover,” says Manas Madhu, director of Beyond Snacks. “Attempting to contemporise banana chips did seem daunting initially, but we wanted to show that it could be a lot more than just banana chips,” he adds.

The team tried out a variety of flavours before narrowing it down to a few. “The spiciness of peri peri worked really well, sour cream too complemented the original flavour; but tomato fell flat,” Manas adds.

As an experiment, the team set up a stall at a popular consumer fair in the State and their chips were an instant hit. “We had to keep getting more stock as the demand was huge. This is when we were sure that there is scope for innovation,” Manas says.

The company, which launched its banana chips in 2020, now has a manufacturing unit in Kalamassery, Kochi, and is a prominent presence on e-retail platforms delivering across the country. More flavours will be rolled out soon, such as barbecue, North Indian and sweet and sour. It retains the ‘original style’ classic salted version, too.

Malabar Masala flavour brought out by A1 Chips, Coimbatore

Malabar Masala flavour brought out by A1 Chips, Coimbatore

In Bengaluru, PR Heaven Chips has launched five new flavours developed in-house: biryani, noodles, cheese, black pepper and tomato. While biryani is aimed at an older demographic, the noodles and cheese versions appeal to younger people and children, says Anish Swaminath, general manager of PR Heaven Chips. “Unlike potato, banana has a very distinct flavour. So the new flavour should complement it,” he adds.

Anish continues, “Though banana chips are a Malayali staple, we seem to consume potato and tapioca chips more than banana, perhaps because we have always shied away from contemporising it.” Launched in November 2021, PR Heaven Chips has its manufacturing unit in Thrissur and will soon be sold through distributors in the State and supermarkets.

Delhi-based Motherland Aromatic South has tied up with the 55-year-old, Coimbatore-based traditional chips maker A1 Chips to bring in a twist to tradition. Banana chips with the flavour of curry leaves, thin chips with rock salt and sweet ripe ones are the versions sold online. “We wanted to give a gourmet aesthetic to banana chips and tap into another socio-economic bracket,” says Devika Mohan, brand manager. It has been available online across the country for the past two years and the response has been great, she adds.

The nendran variety of bananas works the best for chips, say the brands, as cavendish varieties may be lacking in flavour. Most companies now have automated machinery that makes the chips. Even the frying time is controlled.

Traditional players

Now, even traditional players are welcoming change. A1 Chips has over 11 flavours, including chilli masala, Malabar masala, salsa masala, sweet chilli, pepper, aloo tandoori and honey for a sweet touch. “It is all about adapting to newer tastes. Banana chips are our signature product, and anything we add to it only improves its value,” says Sudeesh Dhamodaran, joint managing director of A1 Chips. The brand has 53 outlets in various parts of South India, all of which have these varieties. Sudeesh, however, loves to eat original Kerala banana chips dipped in lime pickle. “It is the best,” he says.

Abhirami N, managing partner of N Vasudevan Banana Chips and Halwa in Kozhikode, says the business gives ample scope for experimentation, but demand is still more for the conventional salted banana chips. However, there are two variations – pepper and chilli – that are available. When she took over the 45-year-old family business started by her father, Abhirami realised that a lot of factors go into the perfection of the final product. “We still use coconut husk in the traditional stove where the chips are made; I believe all this adds to the taste of the product,” she says.

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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 7:35:22 am |