Chipping away at rising food costs

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Vegetable chips, foreground, and vegetable chips salad

Rising prices for food items, including the cost of sweets and other snacks, continue to leave a bad taste in the mouths of consumers.

To combat that, confectionery expert and food coordinator Mayuka Morisaki suggests a way to enjoy the taste of vegetables sold at a reasonable price, sharing her recipe for veggie chips. And the best part is, it’s as easy as pie to make yourself: Slice up some vegetables and place them into your microwave.

Rising confectionery prices

According to research by Teikoku Databank Ltd., the prices of 1,342 confectionery items, including snacks and rice crackers, have risen or are expected to go up this year, with the average rate of increase at 13%.

This is because of a price jump in raw materials and soaring packaging material costs associated with elevated crude oil prices.

In times like these, Morisaki recommends vegetable chips, which are inexpensive and require very little prep time.

“Vegetable chips have an enjoyable texture to them and a natural sweetness. And you can make oil-free, healthy chips by using a microwave oven,” she said.

According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry’s fruits and vegetables wholesale market survey in late October, the price of potatoes and lotus root fell about 40% and 20%, respectively, from a year earlier.

Morisaki uses pumpkins, lotus root and potatoes to make chips. The recipe is simple, but it’s important to be mindful of a few key points.

Vegetables should be sliced as thinly as possible — a thickness of about 1 to 2 millimeters — so the drying process is faster.

Choose lotus root with a diameter of 3 or 4 centimeters so that it can be easily cut into thin slices. This will make it look more appetizing.

If the lotus root is too large, cut the pieces into semicircles. Next, immerse them in cold water to remove the foam.

Arrange the sliced vegetables on a baking dish so that they do not overlap, and heat in a microwave oven. Since cooking times vary among makes and models of microwaves, adjust your cooking time as needed.

If some are not crispy enough, heat them for an additional 10 seconds at a time to remove the moisture, making sure not to overcook them. The result will be crispy chips that have a light flavor.

3 kinds of vegetable chips

Ingredients (serves 2):

    30 grams pumpkin

    30 grams lotus root

    30 grams potato

    Pinch of curry powder

    1 tsp powdered cheese

    Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper


    1. Cut pumpkin into thin slices with a peeler, pat dry with paper towels and place on a baking dish. Microwave for two minutes at 600 watts without wrapping, turn over and cook for 90 seconds. Season to taste with sprinkles of curry powder and salt.

    The Yomiuri Shimbun
    Thinly sliced pumpkin.

    2. Peel lotus root and cut into thin slices with a knife. Soak in water for five to 10 minutes, pat dry with paper towels and cook in a microwave using the same method as for the pumpkin. Sprinkle with powdered cheese.

    3. Peel potato, cut into thin slices, soak in water and pat dry. Cook in a microwave using the method above. Sprinkle with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Ichimi togarashi or sansho Japanese pepper can also be used for seasoning.

    Spicing up with vegetable chips

    Vegetable chips can be added to a variety of dishes to accentuate their texture and add color. Morisaki shares a recipe for vegetable chip salad.

    Vegetable chip salad

    Ingredients (serves 2):

    • 4 leaves frilled lettuce
    • Vegetable chips (pumpkin, lotus root, potato)
    • 1½ tbsp sesame oil
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ½ tbsp sesame oil
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
    • 1 tsp roasted white sesame seeds
    • Directions:

    1. Wash lettuce leaves and soak in cold water for five minutes. Drain in a colander and tear into desired sizes. Mix sesame oil, salt, rice vinegar and roasted white sesame seeds in a bowl to make dressing.

    2. Place lettuce leaves on a plate, top with vegetable chips and serve with dressing.

    Vegetable chips can also be made with burdock root or sweet potatoes. They can also be added to potage.

    “More vegetable aroma comes out each time they are heated in a microwave oven. The process of making them crispy also is fun as it resembles a science experiment,” Morisaki said. “It is also good for parents and children to enjoy making them together.”