Have you ever been chowing down on a piece of chicken and thought to yourself: "hmmm, this could really use some fermented ethanol"? This is the unusual flavour concept behind KFC's limited-edition Salt & Vinegar Shaker Popcorn Chicken box. So does vinegar improve the taste of deep-fried poultry, or does it belong on other foods for a reason? Our taste buds gingerly investigate.
KFC's Salt & Vinegar Shaker Popcorn Chicken does exactly what it says on the box. It consists of a regular serve of Popcorn Chicken paired with a salt-and-vinegar seasoning sachet that customers apply themselves. According to KFC, the vinegar hit is "perfect for summer". (We're not sure what vinegar has to do with summer -- all we can think of is that it's commonly used in salads. In other words, we've got nothing.)
Shake-in seasoning isn't an alien concept to the fast food world. McDonald's periodically offers Mexican-themed flavour sachets and Hungry Jack's recently launched a spicy version. However, these products are usually intended for hot chips. We can't recall ever seeing a version for chicken before.
A regular serve of Salt & Vinegar Shaker Popcorn Chicken contains 1374kJ of energy. This is actually eight fewer kilojoules than the plain version; presumably because you get slightly less chicken. However, it does pack in more than double the amount of sugar (1.2g vs. 0.5g).
You can see how the two products compare in the below KFC table:
KFC is keeping a tight lid on its Salt & Vinegar ingredients: the only hint to the seasoning's contents is a warning that it "may" contain gluten, egg, milk, soy and tree nuts. This probably has more to do with manufacturing processes than the actual ingredients. We're going to hedge a guess that it contains similar stuff to the salt 'n' vinegar flavouring used on potato chips, such as emulsifiers, lactose, malic acid (E296) and salt.
We decided to give KFC's Salt & Vinegar Shaker Popcorn Chicken the ol' taste test at the company's flagship Sydney store. Curiously, we were given a regular Popcorn Chicken snack box -- complete with chips -- instead of the dinky bag depicted in the adverts. Presumably they ran out of the official packaging before we arrived. (Good thing this isn't Takeaway Truth.)
This created a logistical conundrum usually reserved for fine dining. Were we supposed to remove the chips from the box before adding the seasoning? Or maybe you're meant to put the chicken and seasoning into the supplied takeaway bag and leave the chips in the box? I kind of felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in the dinner scene from Titanic .
In the end, I took the lazy approach and just added the seasoning to everything. This made for some worryingly salty chips so only go down this route if you can't get enough sodium chloride.
The Salt & Vinegar seasoning really packs a wallop. It tastes similar to the "Xtreme" salt 'n' vinegar flavouring sachets that Hoyts used to sell with its popcorn: both salty and sweet with a hint of sour.
After tucking into a box, I'm not entirely convinced that chicken and vinegar make great bed fellows. Popcorn chicken is already pretty salty and the seasoning detracts from the chicken flavour. We actually preferred it on our hot chips which is probably how KFC should have marketed this product to begin with.
With that said, we found the Salt & Vinegar seasoning to be a perfectly reasonable condiment to our fried lunch. It will particularly suit customers who find regular popcorn chicken to taste a bit bland. But for best results, use it on your hot chips instead!