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Tjips! A Joburg joint with more klap than slap

Tjips! A Joburg joint with more klap than slap
Il Continentale truffle mayo chips. Photo supplied

Tjips is the latest craft sensation to hit Joburg’s foodie scene. The chip joint based in the Eastgate Food Emporium elevates the humble slap chip into a gourmet experience.

Everyone loves chips, everyone has an opinion about chips, everyone thinks they know what makes the perfect chip. There’s no restaurant in the country that has set out to make the perfect chip,” says Jaron Meyerson, founder of Tjips.

Meyerson, a former investment banker, tested hundreds of recipes before developing the final menu. He aims to make the unassuming spud a star attraction, instead of just an afterthought accompaniment to a main meal.

The Tjips tagline “more klap than slap” portrays their view of the ultimate potato chip: soft and fluffy on the inside but still golden and crispy on the outside, as opposed to your typical slap tjip derived from the Afrikaans “slap” meaning soft or limp.

I think the perfect chip is just the right amount of crispiness on the outside; too crispy and it becomes a crisp. It’s very soft and fluffy on the inside. It shouldn’t have too much of an oily taste. Importantly, it should last for quite a while in its crispy state. A lot of fast food, especially if you get it by delivery, by the time the chips get to you, they’re quite limp and soggy. We try to make our chips longer lasting.”

Tjips’ gourmet toppings and sauces are inspired by global street food: think decadent poutine from Canada and sweet saucy pulled chicken from Korea. They even have chips covered in salsa, guacamole and sour cream, a nod to Mexican nachos.

Prices range from just R29 for plain or spiced chips with tomato sauce or mayo, to R100 for the truly decadent Il Continentale. This luxurious dish consists of crispy potato chips covered with fresh Parmesan, then slathered in truffle mayo (made with real black truffles!).

Meyerson aims to make luxury products, like black truffles, more accessible in a casual environment. The Oom Sam is chips covered in a chilli cheese sauce using real Welsh Cheddar. As more stores open, Meyerson hopes to add more luxury items to the menu.

One of the best accompaniments to potatoes is caviar and Champagne,” says Meyerson.

A trio of dishes at Tjips. Photo supplied

Why thick-cut soft (slap) chips instead of thin crisp ones? Some theorise that slap tjips emerged due to a huge demand in the mining industry. Small immigrant-owned stalls, often Greek or Portuguese, would fry chips to sell to miners. Some say the potatoes were cut into fat chips to save time.

The chip stalls had to fry huge batches of chips at a time to meet the demand. Subsequently, the oil temperature would drop and the potatoes absorbed a lot of oil, resulting in soft slap chips which South Africans came to love.

Tjips has nothing against soft slap chips, but they prefer crisp pommes frites. The team developed a fool-proof recipe for the ultimate chip using a three-stage cooking process. The process was inspired by, and adapted from, Heston Blumenthal’s triple cooked chips recipe:

The potatoes are cut: skin on, thick cut. They are blanched, fried, and then frozen overnight at the Tjips central kitchen in Orange Grove. The next day they are delivered to store and fried fresh each day in deep fryers imported from the US. These deep fryers keep the oil at a steady temperature; once you drop the chips in, the temperature remains hot, resulting in a soft, fluffy chip on the inside with a crisp golden exterior.

Remember when you were a child dipping McDonalds French fries into McFlurry ice cream? Tjips has recreated that nostalgic salty sweet mix with Shenanigans: a collaborative dish with sister company Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream. The dish consists of sugar-coated chips, a scoop of Paul’s vanilla ice cream, peanut caramel sauce, and toasted coconut.

The combination of ice cream and potatoes may seem strange at first, but Meyerson notes that the contrasting flavours make perfect sense together: salty and sweet, crispy and soft, hot and cold.

Seoul Food Pulled Chicken. Photo supplied

Potatoes on their own have very little flavour. There’s a slight earthy bitterness but you only really taste that if you just boil a plain potato. So when you coat the potatoes in sugar, it’s almost like a waffle,” says Meyerson.

The second Tjips store will be opening in April in the new section of Fourways Mall. Meyerson has been experimenting with new flavour combinations and ingredients for the new menu. Customers can look forward to sweet potato chips, limited edition waffle chips, and even the American-influenced kiddie treat “tater tots”. DM

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