Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sanshin Curry Sembei

Something about this packet of curry sembei rubbed me the wrong way when I saw it elegantly displayed in a cardboard box at the local 99 yen shop. I like curry, but the package put me off. I think that the cartoon of a turban-wearing man might be a part of it. It could be the fact that the graphic is a bit cheap-looking with the over-sized head and the tiny body. It could also be the bizarre disconnect between the relatively lifeless expression on the face and the "thumbs up" gesture, or it could simply be it all carries strong hints of politically incorrect packaging.

At any rate, my desire to give curry sembei a sampling overcame my apprehension. I do love curry and this bag claims 18 spices have been used to season these rice crackers. The packet is actually quite small at 45 grams (1.6oz.) so I won't be wasting much if they end up being a bust. The entire bag contains 204 calories and half a bag seems about right for snacking.

When I opened the bag, the very strong and familiar scent of curry powder wafted up to my nostrils. This was quite welcome as I prefer a strong flavoring over a weak one and these did not disappoint on that front. The flavor is rich, potent, and slightly hot at the finish. If I were judging these on the flavor alone, I'd be pretty satisfied.

Unfortunately, texture plays a huge role in things like sembei and these failed rather badly on that front. Sembei ought to be crisp and fresh, but these seemed like they had drawn a little damp. They are still a bit crispy, but also rather spongy. I don't know if this is an issue with how they are made or if they have absorbed moisture from the seasonings coating them as time has gone by. The expiration date on my bag was May 24, 2009 which is relatively soon by snack dating standards. The maker of these sembei, Sanshin, is a relatively small manufacturer that has been in business since 1972 and makes a small variety of crackers and chips. You'd think they'd have a method down for keeping them crispy, so I'm attributing the dampness to age and possibly just the curry flavoring in particular rather than the company's lackluster production methods on the whole.

I loved the intense curry flavor on these, and I will slowly finish the bag. However, I don't think I'd buy them again because of the texture issues and I can't recommend anyone else pick them up.


Bryan said...

I've always wondered why they haven't tried combining curry and rice crackers previously. Sounds kinda interesting, but I agree that is a little weird to have the guy with the turban on the pkg.

Orchid64 said...

It's too bad that the texture wasn't better. The flavor was quite nice.

I did wonder if that type of illustration would be allowed in the U.S. these days with everyone being very sensitive about stereotyping.

Thanks for your comment!

Kelly said...

Well curry = indians. I don't see what the problem is? We all know curry is mainly thought of as an indian curry.

Most of the shops that sell curry here have their motto as "curry in a hurry" and when it is advertised, the person is dressed like an indian.

Would you take offence if they had teriyaki senbei with a japanese person on the front?

Orchid64 said...

I never said I was offended. It just struck me as peculiar, and, as I said, I wasn't quite sure why.

In the U.S. using a cultural stereotype to promote things is pretty taboo. It's not about me being offended by an Indian person being depicted on the bag. It's about my discomfort at the notion that they might be offended. That is, we have to consider whether it demeans their culture or their people if we use their images to promote products. This is why sports teams in the U.S. had to stop using native American images and names like the Red Skins. It offended them, not "us".

Kelly said...

Oh, I see.

I guess in Australia no one really thinks about the race being offended. We recently had an ad on tv for a noodle shop and there was a Japanese guy on it talking in Japanese and when he mentioned the teriyaki noodles he said "SUGEHHH" and Yasu and I just roll our eyes when we see it.