Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bakauke 40-piece Sembei Assortment

In Japan, variety packs are called "asooto" (アソート) which is the Japanized version of "assortment". This Bakauke pack of 40 sembei in 5 flavors has been in my line of sight for some time. I resisted it because of the hassle associated with reviewing such packs (more pictures, more writing, same number of posts), but also because I think it'll take me a very long time to eat all of this myself and my husband doesn't eat sembei.

In the end though, the price and the fact that I could sample a lot of flavors that I've been considering purchasing individually made me take the plunge. I found this at a discount snack shop for 269 yen ($3.12). I'd also seen it for a somewhat higher price at Peacock supermarket, but it's not the sort of thing that tends to show up in just any old market. I think this would be a good thing to have on hand if you tend to have a lot of visitors to your home or have a family and can eat it quicker than the likes of me can consume 40 sembei.

Like all bakauke sembei, these come in a banana shape. The package doesn't offer nutrition information for each flavor, but I'd guess that they are similar to the other flavors I've reviewed and are about 20-35 calories each per cracker. My guess is the black sesame one is higher in calories than the other varieties.

Spicy Soy Sauce:

The strange thing about this soy sauce cracker is that it neither looks nor smells like the typical "shoyu" variety. It's not covered with a semi-sticky veneer of soy sauce. This does small very faintly of soy, but also vinegar. In fact, the predominant taste is a mild vinegar one, not a soy sauce flavor. This reminded me more of a very subdued version of the "Happy Turn 200%" sembei. That's not a bad thing at all, but I think this could have been a bit more intense in flavor. Nonetheless, this was perfectly enjoyable despite its lack of strong spice.

Black Sesame and Soy Sauce:

For some reason, this cracker is wrapped individually while the others come two to a pack. This is the most "fried" one and is bumpy and super crunchy. It smells lightly of sesame and of soy sauce. The exterior is very shiny and quite appealing to look at. These have a mixture of sweet and savory flavors including honey. All of the components come together well to present a multi-layered taste experience with all of the flavors complimenting each other well. I really enjoyed this.

Seaweed and Soy Sauce:

This was the flavor that I had the lowest expectations for because I'm not a huge fan of nori (seaweed). It's not that I can't eat it or find it gross. I can certainly consume it, but if I have a choice, I'd prefer not to have it included in foods that I eat. That being said, this is the sembei for those like me who are indifferent toward nori. The base soy flavor is deep, savory, and complex. The amount of small flakes of nori are enough to make the flavor present, but not overwhelming. The only bad point about this one is that the outside is a bit sticky so you need to eat it with the wrapper on or be prepared to wash your hands after touching it.

Spicy Curry:

This smells lightly of Japanese curry roux blocks, which is to say that the scent is somewhat different from actual curry powder and miles away from real Indian curry. The flavor is mild at first, but builds up a bit on your tongue by the end of a second cracker. There is no heat whatsoever in these and they're mildly salty. I get the sense that these were designed for people who have what is called a "cat's tongue" in Japanese. That is, they are sensitive to foods that are hot in a spicy way. While certainly a nice enough and completely enjoyable cracker, I have more of a "dragon's tongue" (I made that up, it's not Japanese) and would have liked some heat.


I'm going to be a bit lazy on this one and tell you that this is exactly the same as the Bakauke cheese sembei that I reviewed previously. There is no difference between what you get in the bag devoted to "5 cheese" sembei. This is a good thing because I gave those a "happy" rating and thought they were like a higher quality Cheeto cheese flavor.

This was a great value and full of high quality, flavorful, fresh, and crispy rice crackers. If you like sembei, or are going to buy some to send home to people who enjoy it, this is one of the best choices you can make. Despite my initial reservations about buying so much at once, I wouldn't hesitate to buy this assortment again, particularly if I wanted to serve some to guests or keep a stash on hand for late-night T.V. viewing accompaniment.


sophia said...

Oooohmygoodness, I want those senbei!!!

Occasionally my dad's friends send us gifts from Japan, and one assortment had the curry cracker ~ it's SO good!! And pretty rare ~ I tried looking it up online with no luck, and you can't buy it in America anywhere :( 269 yen is a really good deal! Ahhh.. I miss the hyaku-yen shops!!!

On a side ~ this past weekend I had some Shiroi Koibito cookies from Sapporo, http://bit.ly/dgZCzI. Have you had them before or heard of them? They are AMAZING!! I usually don't like sweet cookies, but these were exceptionally good.

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Sophia, and thanks so much for taking the time to comment. :-)

I saw these again today at Okashi no Machioka on sale. I was tempted to pick up another bag but was in a big hurry and passed. However, I have time tomorrow!

I've never seen the cookies that you mentioned, but they do look good. They're likely regional, but if they ever turn up around my area, I'll be sure to try them!

Reikalein said...

Hi there.
I came across your blog today and it inspired me to write my most recent post.
I'm a half Japanese girl living in Switzerland and everytime I go back to Japan I prepare a list of all the snacks I want to stock up on....only to find some are no longer available :( Boooo.

I've added a link to your blog on mine.

Take a peek if you're interested :)


Nora said...

Thanks for all your reviews. We have a good-sized Japanese expat population here in southeast Michigan (tied to the auto industry), so I'm able to pick up some of your favorites at Japanese stores in the area. (Although I sometimes remember the product and not your rating. I picked up some of the Cocoa Bakauke this weekend, only to check your review afterward and see you actually didn't like them all that much. Oh, well.) You can be sure I'll be trolling the stores on my next visit to Japan in a couple weeks.

Oh, and "cat's tongue" (nekojita) refers only to thermally hot food, not spicy food. I think the word you're looking for is "wuss". ;)

Orchid64 said...

Reikalein: Hi, and thank you for linking to me on your blog (I'm checking it out now) as well as reading and commenting. I've found that the snacks are cyclical. They're here, then gone, then back again. Of course, if you miss something, it's months before it shows up again!

Nora: Thanks for the correction. :-) I think I picked up that misunderstanding because my former boss used to say it a lot and he neither liked very hot food or very spicy food and I got it confused. (He used it correctly, I remembered it wrong.) I don't live with a Japanese person, so it's not the sort of thing I encounter outside of a specific setting.

You may end up liking the cocoa bakauke more than I did. I didn't think it was bad at all, mind you. I ate the whole bag over the course of a month, but I just wasn't so enthusiastic about it that I'd buy it again.