Chips Oman is a potato chip snack that is famous for its red and blue plastic bags with an image of a kitchen knife slicing through a peeled potato. It is one of the 25 food products sold by Oman’s Al Jufair Food Industries, which proudly proclaims the chips as the premiere product of the industry.
When I moved from the UAE to the United Kingdom to study in 2008, I made sure to pack a box with me to snack on. Many Khaleejis, especially Omanis, also add it to their list of things to pack when they travel, and they take snapshots of it against the backdrop of London’s Hyde Park and other notable global landmarks, uploading the images to their social media pages.
The product, popular around the Arabian Gulf region and in the Arab world, has also become a hit on ebay – one vendor sold 10 packs at USD 100 last summer, way above its retail price (one pack is typically sold for 50 Omani baisas or USD $1.30). Fashion has also been inspired by it. Emirati fashion designer Fatima Al Mulla used it in a collection of Khaleeji pop culture-influenced statement pins that are available for sale on her online store.
There is nothing eye-catching about the package’s design. If Chips Oman were introduced now and not 32 years ago, it may not have that much appeal.
The thing about the chili-flavoured potato chips is that they resonate with many of those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a part of Khaleeji pop culture and an integral part of many Khaleejimillennials’ memories of growing up.
Back then, Khaleeji millennials did not have the luxury of being exposed to the multitude of local and international potato chip options that are now regularly available in most supermarkets in the region. In addition, its simple chili flavour is accepted by most taste buds. Omanis also take pride in it because it carries their country’s name – they even consider it an unofficial national dish.
In a constantly changing marketplace in which certain foods, restaurants, and cafes quickly go out of trend, this snack has remained a constant. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right?
In 32 years, the package’s design has barely changed, and the flavour has not been altered at all. It tastes exactly as it did when I was a child. It’s like you can travel back in time every time you eat it. The product remains a classic, just like the Chanel 2.55 handbag, and I don’t think it will go out of style anytime soon, no matter how many new products are introduced to supermarket shelves.
Where can you find this classic Khaleeji snack, you ask? In almost every supermarket, grocery shop, or petrol station in the Arabian Gulf region. And if you want to enjoy it the Khaleeji way, you can add it as an ingredient to your cheese sandwich, sprinkle it with hot sauce, toast it, and voila – bon appetit!
Manar Alhinai is the Storyteller-in-Chief at Sekka.