Recently, I opened a bag of Takis, and instead of a bag of evenly red, tightly rolled tortilla chips, found instead a giant, small-cat’s-head-sized clump of coagulated flavor powder.
Everything about the bag felt perfectly normal—normal weight, normal texture, and it looked normal too, a perfectly sealed bag in eye-catching, vibrant red, covered in larger-than-life snacks and a lime and a habanero and a conflagration; in short, everything about this particular bag of Takis—nitro-flavored, plucked from a display in a liquor store on the corner—read as completely normal, which is exactly the kind of milieu needed for a miracle.
Which is what I’m considering it to have been. Barcel USA, Takis’ American distributor for Grupo Bimbo, did explain how my miracle came to be, but not how it came to be mine: the clumps, the company said in an emailed explanation, are caused by natural humidity in the process of making them.
Which, sure; miracles do not need to be—should not need to be—fully explained. But on to bigger matters. What do you do when God hands you a giant clump of Takis seasoning?
Not wanting to waste this precious gift—the fat, apian sting of the pepper; the light bite of the lime—I decided to utilize my miracle on a variety of foods, applying my limited knowledge and cooking skills—I am a writer who sometimes writes about food, not a food writer—to answering this crucial question: does the taste of Takis, already the finest of snacks, transubstantiate to breakfast, entrees, fellow snacks, and drinks?
Breakfast: This one seemed obvious. Breakfast foods, especially the savory kind I favor, are by and large improved by the addition of hot sauce. So it stood to reason that the heat of the powder would make a perfect addition to my eggs.
I cooked them the usual way—oil, frying pan, over hard—before dusting them with a pinch of powder, which I crumbled from on high. So meted, the powder thinned out into a liquid the color of microscope slides. The taste was … fine? The lime notes, so hard to ascertain in the weed-induced, burning binges wherein my Takis are so regularly enjoyed, came through loud and strong on the eggs, a flavor combination which was less disgusting than odd. More magic Takis dust seemed to mitigate this issue; the denser the concentration, the more the heat burned the citrus away.
All in all, acceptable, if not amazing. I was off to an inauspicious start.
Entrées: In an attempt at some sort of broad look—and to smooth out whatever misgivings were surely to arise from my questionable cooking skills—I tasked three proteins with taking on Takis’ mighty flavor.
First, and the closest to a failure, were simple pork chops. After applying a rub of salt, pepper, and Takis seasoning, the chops hit the heat, where their unusual addition quickly simmered into a sanguine oil slick. The color of candy apples, the pork chops looked decidedly un-tasty; on the tongue, they performed about as well as the eggs, the burn perching for a moment after first contact before dissolving away, like a sun-bleached nematocyst.
Next up were some steaks (don't worry; I used cheap pepper steaks so as not to ruin a saintly cut). Rather than rub on the powder, I decided to sprinkle it on after cooking and rest, and the results were exceptional. The habanero seemed to melt across and into the steak, whose hefty body was a more than suitable vessel; this was the finest experience so far.
Finally, I decided on nitro thighs, the thigh being the supreme cut of chicken. A simple coating of lime juice and powder and a date with the oven led to thighs with a flavor more of lime than habanero. While perfectly fine—and oddly pretty, in the way the powder would seep purple into the flesh—it was a disappointment considering my high hopes and the steak's performance.
Snacks/dessert: I fucked up this one. Rather than sprinkle it on to pineapple like a normal person, I got too clever for my own good and sprinkled it on and then shook the container up. While this did accomplish an even coating—God, did it—the end result was decidedly unappealing to the eyes, with large red chunks sitting in a powder and pineapple juice concoction that looked alarmingly like blood—I'd even say it'd be a fine special effect recipe for the slasher auteur on a budget, were it not for, you know, the actor's eyes—all combining to the effect that I appeared to be eating the poorly rendered remains of a ‘90s first-person shooter victim.
The flavor was, of course, delicious, except I had overshot the perfect amount and made a mess instead. Not too hot so much as too much.
Popcorn worked much better. Sprinkling the powder on plain popcorn resulted in a beautiful pied snack like dragonfruit flesh; the experience of eating it was even better. These puffy cumulus clouds provided an entirely different vehicle than the harsh, satisfying tortilla chips, and the light dusting of flavor was extremely suitable, with the coated kernels at the bottom especially delicious, dental-destroying delights.
Drinks: Okay, drink. With the powder being fairly potent, I thought it might make an excellent addition to a Bloody Mary, a cocktail I only like as conflagration. After lining the rim with powder, a healthy squeeze of lime juice—substituted for lemon to accentuate the powder's profile—was added to the classic one part vodka, two parts tomato juice, and three dashes of Worcestershire over ice, with a generous pinch of Takis powder stirred in via celery stick.
The end result, I am happy to report to hangover sufferers, was delicious; lacking the potency of the popular Tabasco, what resulted was a cocktail of perfect calidity, especially the molten kiss of the lips of the glass.
Conclusion: Unsurprisingly, the divine flavoring which makes Takis the delicacy they are was, indeed, capable of imparting onto a variety of food some sense—a lesser sense, to be sure—of the heat and lime and magic of Takis. There is more left, too, fallen to me like exquisite hail, a trick of weather and weight, and a taste of Takis will smolder in my kitchen for a while still.