Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Cocoa Sakuri (rice crackers)
For the longest time, I have resisted the discordant harmonies of sugary sembei. I'm sure that there are many people who react to chocolate-covered potato chips in the same way. You grow accustomed to consuming a food prepared and spiced in a particular way, and it just seems too freaky having it sweet if it's usually savory or vice versa. However, one of my commenters encouraged me to be more adventurous and I have not been steered wrong by my commenters to date.
There are a lot of different sembei streaked with sugar in a way that resembles, well, let's just say you can choose one of two bodily fluids and use your imagination. The packaging just doesn't make it look very appealing because they adjust the saturation so that the sugar streaks look whiter than they really are. In real life, at least in the case of this cocoa version, they look like diseased pustules.
As our mothers told us, it's not fair to judge a book by it's cover so I picked these up for 188 yen (about $1.80) at the local supermarket. The entire bag is 60 grams (2.1 oz.) and has perhaps 12 or so 5 cm. (2 in.) in diameter crackers. If you put away the whole bag, it's 268 calories. Each cracker is individually wrapped to keep it crispy and fresh. These are made by Kameida Seika, and I chose these expressly because I've reviewed their sembei many times before and had very favorable responses. They do good work.
When you open the package and give a cracker a good, deep sniff, you smell cocoa. The ingredients include cocoa powder, almonds, cocoa nibs, and, of course, rice and sugar. Small amounts of crushed almonds are inside the cracker. The outside is "whipped sugar". When you bite into the cracker, you get a nice hit of cocoa and the nibs. The distinctive flavor of sembei is muted by the sugar and chocolate, but it does come through as an aftertaste.
These are very crispy and have a great texture. The chocolate in them is not rich because there is no cocoa butter in them. It's very much a chocolate cracker and not like a cookie though it is pleasantly sweet. The flavor is unusual, but very pleasing. I really, really enjoyed these and I'd certainly buy them again and strongly recommend giving them a try.