Thursday, February 11, 2010

Iwatsuka Soft Mochi Rice Snack

I think someone needs to start a Japanese food blog, preferably one about fast food or frozen food, that is called "There's Corn On My Pizza." Someone else should start one called "Sembei Adventures" and focus on rice crackers. Heaven knows there are more than enough varieties of sembei around to devote an entire blog to them and I just don't have what it takes to do that particular job. My husband hates the smell of sembei so I can't even eat it when he's around without causing offense.

While my husband was at work, I sampled this puffy mochi sembei that is studded with bits of roasted soybean. I've been seeing it in various incarnations for quite some time. Sometimes these puffed up crackers are coated with kinako, but more often than not they have black or brown fragments of soy beans in them. This is called "soft" sembei because it's airy inside rather than crispy and brittle.

I found these at Okashi no Machioka sweets shop. They were on sale, 2 bags for 250 yen ($2.74). You could buy two of a favorite or pair one variety with any of a variety of Iwatsuka Seika's sembei. Most of these types of bags are 178 yen ($1.95), so that's a discount of about 53 yen (53 cents) a bag. I chose this and what appears to be a sweet variety because the other types were familiar or shrimp-flavored. It's pretty good value for 15 crackers.

Since this was my first experience with this particular variety of sembei, I was surprised that it smelled like popcorn and peanuts. In fact, the little packets that these come in mustn't be sealed very well because the entire bag smelled strongly before I even breached the individual packets. The texture is a cross between Styrofoam packing peanuts and popcorn. It's a little strange, honestly. Biting through the outer part which is slightly firm and crispy is fine, but the middle is weird. The flavor is also a bit like popcorn, albeit with more of a rice-like hint mixed with roasted soybeans.

I ate two of these and enjoyed the second one more than the first. They're decent enough, but I prefer "hard" sembei which is crispier, more cracker-like, and also more flavorful. These would be more appealing to me if they were more savory, or even just saltier. All that air does mean each 6.5 cm x 3 cm (2.6 in. x 1.2 in.) cracker is only 26 calories, but even that isn't enough to make me want to buy them again. It's not that they're bad at all, and I'll surely finish the bag, but simply that they weren't flavorful enough for me and I didn't like the texture.


Anonymous said...

OH yes.. OH yes.. like butter melting down hot toast.. THESE are my favorite Shari and the other I mentioned before.. OH yea... 26 calories..

Glad you got to try them... and the Geelee I just love the editable rice paper.. they are more of a paste right than Konjac

Anonymous said...

I need to start experimenting with Japanese snacks, they look so good! Great blog you have here! :-)

Anonymous said...

Why is it so hard to find Japanese snacks here in America? I would imagaine the market to be vast and lucrative with so many people obsessed with them...

Orchid64 said...

Hi, April Marie, and thank you so much for commenting. :-)

It's funny that you love the edible rice paper. It just always reminds me of a gel cap melting in my mouth. I think it's all about associations! If you don't make that mental link, it's really not a problem, but once you make it, there it is and it won't go away. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Woah, having eaten them since I grew teeth I had no idea senbei even have a smell worth speaking of, let alone one that's so offensive that someone couldn't stand it in the same room. Will have to go sniff some now.

Orchid64 said...

Hi, katya and sasa, and thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment!

Katya: I hope you can sample some things. It really is interesting and tells you something about the culture. I'm checking out your blog now. :-)

Sasa: It's funny because some sembei really doesn't smell (the sweet stuff usually), but some of the savory sembei has a very distinct aroma. It's a strong baked rice smell.