Recently, I was at LA’s Farmers Market at The Grove buying some vegetables from Farm Fresh Produce. It’s one of the vegetable stands that’s been in the market for more than 50 years. It’s my go-to veggie hook-up when I missed my normal Sunday farmers market or need something additional throughout the week. (It’s either there or Farm Boy Produce which is right across the hall.)
On this particular day, I was in that wandering state. Not knowing what I wanted as I already had everything in my bag which I needed. It’s never good in any market; before I know I will have purchased four dozen cookies for $5, a new sports jacket for $500 or something equally not important and damaging to either wallet or waistline.
Farm Fresh isn’t that a large place. The fruits, extending from citrus to rambutans (the spiny, prehistoric-looking tropical fruit), are outside still ripening in the California sunshine. The inside displays consist of seasonal vegetables, lettuces and a variety of salsas. So if you want to get into trouble spending money needlessly, it’s really hard.
But there they were, calling my name gently perched on a corner-shelf in sightline,…above the the kale that then I saw the chips. Bagged in plastic were this gorgeously crisped, heavily tanned tortilla chips that I looked amazing. I asked Armando Puente, owner of Farm Fresh, about the chips and asked for his opinion. He replied nodding his head, “Muy delicioso.” He said that they were made fresh daily with fresh oil and salt. That was it. With a big yellow logo crying “Nuños” and priced at $1.99, it went into the mesh shopping bag. Along with Puente’s freshly made pico de gallo, made in the back of the store, it was a much cheaper purchase then Gucci shoes but perhaps not to my waistline, I thought.
Once I got home, I opened the bag and took out a thick, honey colored triangle. It was a quarter of a homemade tortilla which meant after making their own brand of tortillas, the makers of said chip used the excess to make this snack. And one salty, crunchy bite…..I decided that this would be a blog item to espouse my new finding, calling them the “best tortilla chips” I’ve ever eaten…truly.
Because of the thickness, the chips are extra crunchy with a light, smattering of salt. Not a lot of oil. That is it. Simple. Clean and oh so good.
It used to be that I would seek out the cult of “Have a Corn Chip” which used to be sold in Trader Joe’s and larger grocery stores. The chip, made in The Laguna Beach, California, has a nationwide following which was vindicated in a local alternative paper. These chips have a distinctive flavor as they have cooked with hint of lime and soy sauce. Delicious but not traditional.
And as I’ve written this lengthy blog item, championing these particular tortilla chips (not to be confused with corn chips such as Fritos or Doritos), I discovered that tortilla and corn chips were only recently created. Tortilla chips were made by a lone woman in the late 1940s. She wanted to lessen tortilla “waste” so she fried up the irregularly machine-produced tortillas as a snack and invented the “tortilla” chip.
I prefer the tortilla chip which differs from the corn chip in two ways: 1) the chip from a tortilla was made to make…well, tortillas. It’s leftover from the process and 2) it’s made from the thousands of year old Mexican/ Aztec process of nixtamalization which uses lime juice and a stone to grind the corn. Corn chips on the other hand come directly from the “masa” (or ground corn) where they can go directly into the oil. A corn chip was made to be a corn chip and was created by the founder of Fritos, a vegetarian, whose company Frito-Lay seemed to have gotten waylaid in the development of wholesome, vegetarian options.
I think the upshot to the whole thing is that a chip like anything needs to be as fresh as possible. Certainly, you can make your own which to me is labor intensive or you can buy “Nuños”, simple as that. If you don’t have them available in your area, you can use the Tostitos or Santitas brand. The Santaritas for the Superbowl would be good just not the best….sort of like playing with a deflated-ball. It works, just not as crunchy.