Return with us now to the days of yore - or at least the late 50s/early 60s, before my family moved to New York. Mom brought home some goodies from a visit to NYC, among which was a box of something that looked like multi-colored plastic chips. When placed into a frying pan full of hot oil, they bubbled at the edges for a moment or two, then suddenly puffed up to resemble styrofoam- or maybe a better description would be pork rinds. Drained them on paper towel for a moment and sprinkled salt over them.
I THINK they were made from dried shrimp paste, but can't swear to it. The surface of the chips before cooking was really smooth. I don't remember them having a distinctive taste - the fun of eating them was in the prep and watching the transformation.
Anybody know if these whatever-they-were are still around? Or have an opinion as to whether I've simply lost my mind?
Yup still around. My grandmother used to make them for me when I was a kid. They were also my second favorite part about ordering peking duck from our fav Chinese resto. They also may be called prawn crackers or prawn chips.
My mother still uses these when she fries chicken -- to test if her oil is hot enough to start putting her chicken in to fry.
They surround the fried chicken we get at our favorite Chinese restaurant. The chicken is not breaded. It has a very crispy skin and is served with a small dish of seasoned salt.
They are a common staple in Chinese restos in Germany, aka kroepoek. Mind you, most of the Chinese restos in Germany are Cantonese, so it may be a regional thing.
I was appalled to find that in the U.S., the equivalent seems to be pre-fried 'crispy noodles', which are practically tasteless.
The plastic-like chips for home-frying can still be found in Asian stores throughout Germany. We made them at home once, too. Fun to watch them expand. And damn tasty.