Sixth in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand.
A few weeks ago I saw some photos of a plate of chips — fries, to the Americans among you — on Instagram.
These were no ordinary chips. They were beautifully presented, sprinkled with colorful sauces and herbs, and I could taste them right through my phone. My mouth literally watered.
A couple of clicks told me these chips come from a place called TJIPS in Eastgate Mall. (Eastgate is the pre-eminent sprawling Joburg mall of the East.) The Eastgate food court is not the first place I’d expect to find a high-end, gourmet chip shop. I was intrigued all the more.
Within minutes I was DM-ing with Jaron, the TJIPS’ founder, arranging a visit.
The Story of Slap Chips
Before I continue, I need to explain about slap chips. Slap chips (pronounced something like “slahp tchups”) are basically soggy fries — a South African staple food. Apparently slap chips originated during South Africa’s gold mining era, when miners ate a lot of fish and chips and food stalls sloppily fried huge quantities of thick-cut potatoes in massive vats of cheap cooking oil. The chips got soggy quickly and hence became slap chips.
TJIPS’ chips, however, are not of the slap variety. In fact TJIPS’ motto is “more klap than slap”. “Klap” is an Afrikaans word meaning “hit”. In other words, TJIPS’ chips are so crispy and tasty, they’ll klap you.
I love how TJIPS is building upon the story of South African slap chips. For a more in-depth explanation of how TJIPS got started and what the chips are about, read this article in the Daily Maverick.
A Potato-filled Lunch at TJIPS
Jaron gave my friend Megan and me six different TJIPS dishes to try.
I really loved these chips. The chips themselves were perfectly prepared — not too skinny, not too fat, and crispy and well seasoned. We also learned from Jaron that a lot of research and thought has gone into where TJIPS sources its potatoes from — not all potatoes are the same.
The topping combinations are so fun and tasty. My favorite dish was the parmesan chips with black truffle mayo — simple, luxurious, and delicious. The buffalo wing chips and Mexican style chips tied for second. The buffalo sauce was tangy with just the right amount of spice, and the salsa on the Mexican chips was one of the best salsas I’ve had in South Africa. I could tell a lot of thought and care goes into the selection of every ingredient.
The dishes range in price from R29 for plain chips to R100 for the chips with black truffle mayo.
For dessert we tried the chips topped with Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream and caramel sauce.
I posted the photo above on social media and was surprised by the numerous extreme reactions it received. Lots of people seemed put off, even offended, by the idea of chips and ice cream together. I don’t understand why — I love salty/sweet combinations. And didn’t you ever dip a French fry into your chocolate milkshake at McDonalds?
Anyway I thought the chips and ice cream tasted great together, especially combined with the caramel sauce. Although I confess I loved the savory combinations more. When I go back to TJIPS (and I’ll definitely go back) I’ll probably go for the truffle mayo or Mexican chips.
Eastgate Mall is TJIPS’ only location for now. But TJIPS will soon be spreading beyond the confines of the East. Follow their Facebook and Instagram feeds for announcements about new shops opening up in the near future.
My lunch at TJIPS was complimentary. Opinions expressed are mine.