Paraiso Taste Panel: Chips & drinks

A review of some crunchy munchies in-store

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Who doesn’t get the munchies every now and then?

Whether you’re staying in to watch a movie or a TV/Netflix show or looking to serve some ready-to-go snacks for your next BBQ, our Paraiso Taste Panel is here to help by sharing their honest opinions on the items they got to sample at Paraiso South.

Thanks to Yazmin Juarez (a.k.a. quetzalgirl)’s recent TikTok reviews on Queso Ruffles (Cheese Ruffles) and Mr. John’s Plantain Chips, we were inspired to get a group of foodies together to do a taste panel. And chips are a great place to start, given Paraiso’s wide selection of them! We threw a handful of tropical drinks in there, too ‘cause who really eats chips with only a side of water?

Before we begin, meet our four panelists!

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Virgy Pardo (VP)

Tiktok: virgydiamondprincess

Cultural background: First-generation Chilean-Canadian.

Previous Paraiso shopping experience? [I’ve shopped here] since they’ve opened, because I was born and raised here in Edmonton. The northside store was first, so it was really far away, but it was always fun to go there, ‘cause you never knew what you were gonna find. You can find anything – from junk food to stuff that you can only find from back home. It’s amazing.

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Yazmin Juarez (YJ)

Tiktok: quetzalgirl

Cultural background: Guatemalteca [Guatemalan].

Previous Paraiso shopping experience? I came here [to Canada] in 1992 and my family and I have been shopping here ever since. Again, the northside location was more familiar to us because we [lived] in the northside. In terms of the food, I like to come here and I like to buy everything and anything. But I usually go for the chips: that’s my number one. And then the chorizo.

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Nestor Avalos (NA)

Cultural background: First-generation Salvadoran-Canadian.

Previous Paraiso shopping experience? I grew up coming here with my family when we lived in Abbottsfield and then when we moved to Mill Woods. But every month or so, we’d come and grab chicharrón and other supplies for pupusas and chumpes [pavo or turkey]. So yeah, I’ve been coming here for a really long time now.

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Michael Villaraza (MV)

IG: greedy_soul1977

Cultural background: Filipino background, Canadian-born.

Previous Paraiso shopping experience? This is my first time at Paraiso, but I’ve heard about them through social media like Instagram and facebook. I think what interests me about Paraiso is the Takis ‘cause I’ve never tried [them], but it’s caught my attention.

Earlier, the taste panelists were asked to select five types of chips that they wanted to review along with three drinks, one of them being Jumex, which was part of Paraiso North’s Eats on 118 deal throughout March.

For each set of chips, panelists were asked to share their thoughts on the flavour, crunch factor, ingredients and/or spice factor.

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Chips #1: Zambos Ceviche Flavored

Country of origin: Honduras

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

YJ: They have a history of over 40 years.

NA (tries a few chips): Oh, that’s a lot better than I thought it would taste.

YJ: Mmmm!! That’s actually really…limey.

MV: The lime taste interests me on this.

NA: Yeah, like the lime sticks out a lot, and then it’s just balanced out with the starchiness of the plátano (plantain), so…yeah. I dig it.

YJ: It [has] a really good crisp factor. And the lime takes over but then a saltiness kicks in after the lime, which is perfect, because we love limón con sal (lime with salt). And there is a little bit of a kick, but not enough to be like, “It’s spicy,” but you can still kinda taste it.

VP: That is so true. I love the crunch of these. Like they’re not so thick and they’re not so paper thin that you can see through it. You can actually crunch it and it’s good. And then the savoury hits, the lime hits – I’m really, really pleasantly surprised.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is “terrible”, 5 is “okay” and 10 is “excellent, love it”, how would you rate these chips, and why?

VP: I’d give it a 7, because I’m not big on fish and stuff (laughs).

YJ: Six. I think, for me, it was a little bit too salty, and I think that kind of overcame everything.

NA: I’d give it an 8. It’s very like ceviche. If you ate those chips with beer, it’d be like “Ah!” It’s just like a chilling chip.

MV: I’d probably give it a 6. The lime was interesting, but I think the [saltiness] was maybe the part that I wasn’t too much into. I was hoping for a sweeter-based taste.

Chips #2: Exotic Cassava Chips (Lemon Chili)

Country of origin: Canada

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

VP: I love the crunch – holy, is this ever good? I might buy one to take home with me for later [laughs]. It’s really spicy, but it’s not overpowering. It depends on the chip that you get. You either get the full flavour of the cassava or the limón-chile (lemon-chili).

And this was manufactured in [British Colombia], which I like. Because I love supporting local.

YJ: So, the crunch is like…really good. [The cassava] is thin and it’s baked maybe, but it’s like super crunchy. Every chip is different, because if you grab the really red ones – a little bit of kick comes in. But if you want to take a little break, you can choose the light ones, and those ones don’t have [as much flavour]…so it’s a nice balance of spiciness and not. I will give this one an 8.

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NA: I’ve had these before and I really like them. The only thing I wish there was more of is the flavour. I really dig the crunch. But yeah. I wish it was like more chile-limón and it was more cassava, because it still has that oily potato chippy flavour. Uhhhm, so I give it like a 6.

MV: For this one, I’ll give it 7 out of 10. For me, what caught my attention was the crunch. And I kinda like the spicy taste to it.

VP: [My] rating for this would be…really a 9. Yeah. For me, it’s perfect.

Drink #1: Jumex Guava Nectar

Country of origin: Mexico

NA: It’s like other nectars like mango nectar. It very much coats your mouth, but it’s more mellow and a little more acidic than mango nectars or [similar]. I really like it. It kinda has this flavour somewhere between…pear and apple, maybe.

What rating would you give it?

NA: A solid 7.

YJ: It’s really sweet. But again, it’s a nectar, so it’s supposed to be sweet, right? It’s not so thick, which I appreciate, because sometimes when they’re too thick, I don’t like the consistency. But this one’s a good variety of liquidy and thick and the sweet, but it’s not so sweet that me empalaga (I find it too overly sweet).

NA: Like you’re overwhelmed.

YJ: With the sweet. It’s a nice, summery, freshy drink. I give it an 8.5.

VP: It’s my first time trying [this drink]. And I really, really love the flavour. It’s very soft, but the one thing I don’t like about nectars in general is that sometimes, you get the grains from the fruit. That’s not a very pleasant sensation (laughs). But that’s just the nature of the juice. But [this one’s] really good, and I would give it…probably an 8, actually. It’s not too sweet, it’s really good. It’s fresh.

MV: I think this one kind of has a fresh taste to it as someone mentioned so far [as] if you just squeezed [the fruit] out, right? And it’s not really as thick as other nectars I’ve tried. It’s kind of moderate. I would give it a 7 out of 10 rating.

Chips #3: Sabritas Rancheritos

Country of origin: Mexico

VP: I LOVE the marketing on this. It’s so good. You can’t get better than that. It’s called “Rancheritos El Mero Mero Saber Ranchero”. Like I could sing that!

MV: It kind of reminds me of Doritos in a way and maybe a tad bit spicier. I don’t know, I could be wrong. But that’s the impression that I’m getting. It’s nice and crunchy. And for the rating, I give it an 8 out of 10.

NA: It’s a very corny tasting chip like Fritos or Doritos. But – like the name would imply – it’s not ranchy, it’s a lot smokier. It’s more of like a barbecue-y kind of flavour, but more…“spicy” is the wrong word…It’s a light pepperiness, but like paprika.

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

I’d give it a 4. I’m not mero-mero [boss] enough for this. It has like a citrusy bit at the beginning, and it’s smokey, but then there’s this aftertaste at the end that I can’t get over.

YJ: I grew up eating this when I was in Guatemala and then Mexico. But now, tasting it, it doesn’t have the same flavour that I remember. So I don’t know if it’s like a change, but it’s a little bit less spicy and flavoury. I can taste the corn a lot. It starts off with a good kick, but then that kinda dissipates. I wish the popping at the beginning could stay throughout. And I just didn’t feel like it was crispy enough. But because it’s that familiar taste to me, I would continue to buy Rancheritos.

And the packaging – I never really noticed till [laughs] you guys were like hyping it up, so I’m gonna give it a 6.

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

VP: [It’s] my first time trying [these chips]. The crunch is okaaay. Same as everyone else like the flavor at first was really good. You can taste the limón and then you can taste the savoury part of it – the barbecue or smokey – but then, I don’t want anymore. I’m like, “I’m okay. One or two is good.”

I’m gonna give it a 4, like I’m not gonna buy it, but if I see it at a party, I’m not gonna be rude [laughs]. Like the crunch just wasn’t there for me.

YJ: Those are the types of chips that need a little bit of help, so you put some Tapatío [Hot Sauce] or Valentina on, right? And a little bit of limón right on top, and it will take it there.

NA: That’s what I do with the cassava ones (laughs).

VP: Really?!NA: Yeah, I have a litre of Valentina at home that I got [from] here.

VP: What’s Valentina?

NA: Valentina is a Mexican hot sauce.

YJ: You put that stuff on everything. I put it on popcorn.

Drink #2: Inca Kola

Country of origin: Peru

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

VP: I have Peruvian roots. I’m actually Incan (laughs). For real. Like I’m not trying to be funny.

YJ: I’m excited to try this one. [After having a few sips]. It’s really good. It’s like between Cola Champán [Cola Champagne] and like…something.

NA: It’s not like Cola at all. It’s Cola in the sense that everything south of the U.S. is like selling Cola.

[Check out the video to hear more of the panelists’ thoughts on Inca Kola!]

Chips #4: Stix (Hot Chili Pepper & Lime)

Country of origin: Mexico

VP: It’s like sticks.

NA: It’s like Cheetos.

MV: Cheetos but skinnier?

VP: Whoaa! These are spicy. I’m dying, but they’re so good!

NA: I’m not gonna say I’m a hot chips [expert] (laughs), but this is very misleading. This is like mild territory, if that.

VP: My mouth is burning, so…

NA: Spicy Cheetos.

VP: They’re so tiny. That’s a little weird. It’s a little off-putting, ‘cause when you look in the bowl, it looks like little red worms. It [doesn’t look] appetizing, but the crunch is good. The flavours, of course, classic – chili pepper and lime – they go [well] together, so I love that. But it’s super spicy for me. I’m gonna give it like a 6…I don’t think I would buy it again, but I’m not hating them.

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

YJ: So, I like [that they’re] small […] ‘cause I’m a person that will eat a huge bag of chips in one sitting. [The size is] giving me the [idea] in my mind [of] “You’re eating so many, but they’re so little” that that could be beneficial for me. (laughs)

NA: Diet chips! (laughs)

YJ: But it has a really good crunch and you can taste the saltiness, the limey [flavour], and the spiciness. [The spiciness is] not really too much, but I can feel it in my mouth […] like everywhere on my tongue – like you can feel the spice. But not overly which is good. I would give it…6.5.

NA: Um, I enjoyed them. Though the name is really misleading: not hot at all. It’s like spicy Fritos. It’s like a corn chip. There’s a little bit of spiciness at the back, but there’s not much lime to it, either. It goes away really quick. And it’s kind of like – I dunno – the texture of…unpuffed Cheetos.

You can eat lots of these. They’re like…videogame chips where you’re just absentmindedly eating. But they won’t get your hands as dirty, so that’s a bonus. ‘Cause they’re so small, right? Cheetos or Doritos – you get all over your hands.

YJ: And that’s like an after-eating treat, right? Like you dedicate a few minutes to just licking your fingers and not having enough flavour on them (laughs).

NA: Yeah, clean licks all around. (Everyone laughs)

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

I wouldn’t hate on it. I’d give it a 7.

MV: I found this one really hot ‘cause my mouth was on fire (laughs). [It’s] probably like a spicier version of the Cheetos. Although, I think, for my expectations, I was hoping for it to be nice and fluffy, but [they’re] really small sticks. For the rating, I would probably give it a 6.5 out of 10.

Drinks #3: Cuzcatlan Cola Champagne

Country of origin: El Salvador

MV: It’s more bubbly than [Inca Kola] but a similar taste [to] cream soda and [with] a little bit more bubbly fizz. I don’t know which [between Inca Kola and Cuzcatlan] I prefer over the other yet but I guess I’ll give [this one] a 7 out of 10 rating.

NA: This is one of my favourite sodas […] and I don’t like pop without liquor so that’s a testament to how much I like this soda. It has a very similar taste to Inca Kola, but it’s more on the sweeter side and it doesn’t have as much acidity. And it has a little bit of an anise-y kind of sweetness, but it’s not overly licorice-y at all. It’s a solid 10. Ten for days.

YJ: For me, it’s a very familiar drink. So again, it kind of takes me back [to my childhood] and I just wanna have a pupusa right with it.

[The flavour is] really good – not too sweet, but sweet enough for you to come back and get more. The fizziness is similar to the Inca [Kola]. [This] goes down so smooth. And I like that, so I’m gonna give it a 9.

VP: So I’ve had Cola Champán before, and it’s fine…it’s great. It’s almost the same as Inca Kola.

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

But it’s so sweet for me that I can still taste the sugar on my teeth, on my tongue, so I probably will always pick Inca Kola over Cola Champán (laughs). I would probably give it a 7, because I do tell people, “Yeah, buy it. It’s good.”

NA: It’s a chugging soda…where you’re like a little kid and you’re just going “glug-glug-glug”…

YJ: And then you have orange marks [around your mouth]…

NA: Yeah. I never understood those kids in the Sunny D commercials. I was like, “No, you could have had Cola Champán in there and done the exact same thing.”

Chips #5: Takis Fuego (Hot Chili Pepper & Lime)

Country of origin: Mexico

Out of the chips and drinks that you tried today, which ones would you pair together?

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Photo: Kristina de Guzman

YJ: I would probably pair the Takis with the [Jumex] nectar just to balance that strong flavour with something smooth and then the cassava [chips] with the Inca Kola.

NA: I would do Cola Champán with the Takis – because Takis are so intense with the lime that it would cut out a lot of the sweetness from the Cola Champán. And I’d probably put the guava drink with the cassava chips just because they’re so light that I think it would be a nice little pair that doesn’t have an intense flavour like the sodas did. Rancheritos can like…

VP: Go away?

NA: They can have water (laughs).

MV: I would [pair] the Inca Kola with the Takis…

VP: Yes! Agreed. This is like the epic combo right there for sure.

MV: [Inca Kola is] something sweet and you have that kind of mild spicy [with the Takis] – it’s just the opposite kind of thing.

VP: Inca Kola and Takis. Inca Kola with cassava (chuckles). Inca Cola with…everything.