Italian Red Meat Flavor potato chips

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Jeff DeMarco writes:

My son in Hong Kong made this insightful quip regarding the attached photo: “I feel cooperation with China is ultimately going to depend on us understanding each other's potato-chip flavors.”

I presume the meaning is something along the line of “spaghetti sauce flavor….”

The big characters at the top read:  Lèshì 乐事.  That normally would mean "joy; amusement; gaiety", but in this case it's the Sinographic transcription of "Lay's".

The Chinese at the bottom says:

Yìdàlì xiāngnóng hónghuì wèi


Italian aroma red braised [meat] flavor

Although the English translation on the package sounds odd, it is basically correct.  Remember a few years ago when we encountered cucumber flavored Lay's potato chips that are "cool and refreshing" (qīngxīn qīngshuǎng 清新清爽).  See "Walmart China talk" (9/16/15)

It's as Jeff's son says, a lot depends on "understanding each other's potato-chip flavors".


  1. Laura Morland said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 10:56 am

    Has Jeff's son given his verdict on the taste of these potato chips? I'm in Italy right now, as it happens, and nevertheless this flavor sounds more appalling than appealing.

    (I'll look to see if they sell it in the supermarket here, but I'm doubtful….)

    P.S. It reminds me of a piece I once read on Japanese styles of pizza — some of the flavor combinations were astonishing, at least from an American point of view.

  2. Gianluca said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 11:03 am

    Italian here. First, let me have the mandatory national reaction of outrage when foreigners, ahem, reinterpret our food (tongue in cheek of course).

    Second, I offer the interpretation that ‘Italian aroma red braised (meat)’ perhaps means ragù, the sauce normally translated as ‘Bolognaise sauce’ abroad. Could it be possible?

  3. Bob Ladd said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 11:21 am

    @ Gianluca. If Jeff DeMarco is American, ragù is precisely what he meant by "spaghetti sauce". People who regularly refer to ragù as "Bolognaise sauce" in English are far more likely to be British, in my experience. (And nobody but a Brit would ever talk about "spag bol".)

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 11:26 am

    D@mn your eyes, Sir. It is "Spag. bog.", not "Spag. bol."
    A True Brit.

  5. Gianluca said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 11:30 am

    @Bob Ladd
    Thanks. And of course no self respecting Italian would serve spaghetti with ragù. They just are not made for each other. But hey.

    However, since ‘Bolognaise sauce’ seems to be fairly common as a term beyond the Alps, and spaghetti are indeed very widespread worldwide, I accept the equivalence of ‘spaghetti sauce’ with ‘ragù’.

    I am as outraged as it is mandated by Italian mores, for the record.

  6. Karl Weber said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 11:57 am

    In a lifetime of eating spaghetti in US restaurants, I never knew that "bolognese sauce" could be called "ragu." To me, Ragu is purely
    the trademark of a sauce brand sold in supermarkets.

  7. Gianluca said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 12:10 pm

    Curiouser and curiouser, @Karl Weber.

    Ragù, from French ragoût, is the common noun in Italian that indicates the mixture of tomato sauce and minced meat that I normally see, outside of Italy, referred to as ‘Bolognese/Bolognaise sauce’.

    Ragù in Italy has two main traditions, one originating in Bologna and the other in Naples, so you can normally have ‘ragù alla bolognese’ and ‘ragù alla napoletana’: that means you don’t have ‘pasta alla bolognese’ (and most certainly never ‘spaghetti alla bolognese’), but pasta al ragù (and that ragù can be ‘alla bolognese’).

    Hope this clarifies. I am hungry now.

  8. Steve B said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 12:25 pm

    The sauce sold under the name "Ragu" in the US is widely marketed and mediocre at best, so it's understandable why there is not much interest in using it as a general term for the sauce. As an American, it brings the connotations of dinners when Mom made Dad cook, and he took the easy "pasta with sauce out of a jar" route.

  9. Philip Taylor said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 12:53 pm

    Burns was clearly no fan of the stuff, even if he did think of it as French rather than Italian :

    Is there that owre his French ragout,
    Or olio that wad staw a sow,
    Or fricassee wad mak her spew
    Wi perfect scunner,
    Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
    On sic a dinner?

  10. Tom Dawkes said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 1:03 pm

    This reminds me of the time — some 30 years ago, I would guess — when a British crisps (potato chips) firm brought out BAKED BEAN FLAVOUR crisps!

  11. Rube said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 1:15 pm

    @Philip Taylor:

    A common attitude amongst the English of the old days, too:

    When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food,
    It ennobled our veins and enriched our blood.
    Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good
    Oh! the Roast Beef of old England,
    And old English Roast Beef!

    But since we have learnt from all-vapouring France
    To eat their ragouts as well as to dance,
    We're fed up with nothing but vain complaisance
    Oh! the Roast Beef of Old England,
    And old English Roast Beef!

  12. Sean Richardson said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 1:46 pm

    So far down one rabbit hole … When I put flat crispy snack food and Italian red meat together, I don't get sauce of any kind, I get pepperoni slices!

  13. Norm Forsythe said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 2:22 pm

    I'd be willing to give it a try. I wonder if the food chemists/scientists dare each other to give flavor like this a try. Amazing that they actually get packaged and produced!

  14. The Other Mark P said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 4:07 pm

    "Bolognese" is a reasonably common flavour of potato crisp in Europe. Lays make them, for example.

  15. F said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 4:11 pm

    @Tom Dawkes, did you ever encounter kipper flavour crisps? I remember them from, I think, 1971. Can't remember who made them, though, and they didn't catch on for some reason.

  16. Jen in Edinburgh said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 4:21 pm

    There were Irn Bru flavour crisps for a while – Highlander, I think. They weren't exactly good, but they were kind of exciting.

  17. Victor Mair said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 4:46 pm

    From Thomas L. Mair, Italophile:

    And yet no one has touched on the mystery subject; i.e., just what is the meat aroma on the Chinese chips? My guess is that it's the aroma of pepperoni, which is basically salt and spices and therefore easy for the chemists to spray on potato chips on an industrial scale.

    @Karl Weber Haha; you're kidding, of course. Ragu is not the stuff packaged in quart bottles and sold at the supermarket. How could you?

  18. Bob Ladd said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 5:00 pm

    @Philip Taylor: An extremely brief exploration on Google confirms that (a) some people have strong feelings about whether one says "spag bol" or "spag bog", but (b) "spag bog" is a minority taste, and it apparently has little to do with how true a Brit one is. To me (not a native Brit, and married to an Italian) they both sound pretty awful, but the existence of the alternative form with "bog" is news to me, so thanks for expanding my linguistic (if not my gastronomic) horizons.

  19. Robot Therapist said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 5:46 pm

    I've always heard "bol" in England, not "bog".

  20. Jim Breen said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 6:49 pm

    "spag. bol." in Australia. Never heard of "spag. bog" until today.

  21. Harry said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 9:55 pm

    @Jim Breen
    Actually, "Australia" is not a cultural whole. It is a Federation of states with quite different words. From my experience as a native Victorian, married to a NSWaler and living in Q, there are many varying ways of saying things across the country, and spag bog is common enough. There was a language expert I heard once who could pinpoint where you came from by your word for a number of childhood things such as two people sharing a bicycle, a wooden gravity-powered wheeled vehicle and a chrome public water dispenser to drink from.

  22. Harry said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 10:00 pm

    Oh, and the game (X) where you run around trying to touch someone to pass on the state of being Y and the area (Z) where the people fleeing the person who is Y are immune. (Three words there X, Y and Z)

  23. David Morris said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 11:03 pm

    Exactly what shade is Italian red?

  24. Victor Mair said,

    June 12, 2019 @ 11:16 pm

    Parsed as "Italian | Red Meat".

  25. Bob Ladd said,

    June 13, 2019 @ 12:18 am

    @Jim Breen @ Harry: As it happens, the first hit when I googled "spag bog" was a piece in the (Australian!) Daily Telegraph about the difference between the two forms (

  26. George said,

    June 13, 2019 @ 12:30 am

    The big characters at the top read: Lèshì 乐事. That normally would mean "joy; amusement; gaiety", but in this case it's the Sinographic transcription of "Lay's".

    But surely it isn't a case of being one rather than the other? If that's the transcription that Lay's have chosen to market their products in China there's a good reason for that…

  27. Michaelyus said,

    June 13, 2019 @ 4:11 am

    The ingredients for this "Italian spaghetti bolognese" seasoning are readily available online (e.g. “Italian Spaghetti Bolognese Seasoning contains: Dried Milk Lactose, Sugar, Salt, Glucose, Hydrolysed Soya Protein, Dried Onion, Dried Tomato, Flavourings, Smoke Flavourings, Basil, Parsley, Dried Garlic, Colour (Paprika Extract)."

    Hence there is no actual meat at all.

    The red-braise is actually not to do with the meat at all, but a fairly standard cooking technique across Chinese cuisine.

  28. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 13, 2019 @ 7:32 am

    Bob Ladd: But that Australian article says Susan Butler, the editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, '… said both forms emerged in the UK in the 1970s. In Australia, the “overwhelmingly dominant form” is spag bol which rates an entry in the dictionary. Those of us who are in the spag bog camp might be showing signs of a British influence.'

    Is "spag bog" a deliberate reference to toilets?

  29. David Morris said,

    June 13, 2019 @ 7:47 am

    @Victor: It's possible I was joking!

  30. Victor Mair said,

    June 13, 2019 @ 11:25 am

    @David Morris

    That's possible, but not necessary.

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