Shoestring potatoes are potatoes that have been julienne cut and deep fried so that they are crispy. They are commonly eaten as a snack food, much like potato chips, although they may also be served like French fries. They are also sometimes called potato sticks, depending on the region of the world that they are found in. Many markets carry them in their snack aisles, and they can also be made at home with the assistance of a deep fryer.
The name is a reference to their extremely narrow width, which is indeed akin to a shoestring, but the length can vary quite widely. Because they are so thin, shoestring potatoes fry all the way through when they are cooked, unlike French fries, which tend to have a more tender central portion. As a result, they will keep well if they are handled properly.
After deep frying, the potatoes will be allowed to completely dry if they are going to be eaten cold as a snack food. When they are packaged for sale, they are often put into airtight cans or foil bags. Once opened, they need to be eaten quickly, or they will start to go stale. They do tend to be rather high in fat, since they are deep fried, and they are also often heavily salted as well. Typically, a small serving carries a large number of calories, making them a food which should be eaten in moderation..
Some producers make a variant on shoestring potatoes with other vegetables, such as carrots and yams. In other cases, multicolored potatoes are used for variation, and they have a wider range of flavors that some consumers find enjoyable. Despite the diversity in ingredients, these variants are equally high in fat, and they usually do not differ substantially in nutritional value from conventional products.
Some restaurants also offer this style of potatoes, usually as an alternative to French fries. In this case, they are generally served hot, and they may be slightly less crunchy than their cooled and packaged versions. It is also possible to make them at home, although a large deep fryer should be used, since it will allow the potatoes to spread out as they are cooked. The potatoes are usually cut on a mandoline, to ensure that the cuts are even and precise, so that they will be cooked all the way through to crispy perfection.