Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Yamachan's Shittori Sembei
One of the mistakes foreign folks make while living in Japan is concluding that they understand the country based on their little corner of the experience. The truth is that, like many countries, Japan is not one country with one uniform culture and one type of people. It's a small country compared to some others, but the culture is different in various regions. You can live here for decades and still never come across some aspects of the culture.
Sometimes little things remind me of this, and this snack was one of them. No matter how many foods I sample, companies I research, or packages I translate, I'll never know it all. There will always be things which are popular outside of my experience that I'll never know. I had never encountered "Yama-chan's" brand of food before coming across this packet of sembei at Peacock supermarket. It turns out that it is a chain of restaurants that sells a particular type of chicken wings. The nearest restaurant in this chain is about an hour from my apartment and many of the others are even further afield.
This sembei is supposed to mimic the distinctive seasoning of Yama-chan's chicken wings. Since I've never had their actual food, I can't speak to its verisimilitude to the real thing, but I can talk about it as a rice-based cracker snack. I found these at Peacock supermarket for 148 yen ($1.57). There were 17 largish crackers in the bag (about the size of a medium potato chip) and there were 195 calories in the whole bag (11.5 calories each).
They smelled rather peppery with some other spices mixed in. The taste was also quite peppery (as in black pepper) with some of the fried chicken taste you might expect. The pepper hits you first and the fried chicken spices second. The pepper tends to come back around at the end as it lingers on the tongue. These are "shittori" which means "moist" so the texture was rather softish compared to most sembei. They were very similar to the Sanshin curry sembei I reviewed before only with different seasoning. I didn't like the texture on those and I wasn't a great fan of the texture on these either. I guess I really need to avoid "shittori" sembei.
I ate the entire bag of these, but they really just tasted like black pepper and those packets of fried chicken seasoning powder that you can buy at supermarkets. The pepper dominated so much that I felt that I'd be better off just buying one of my favorite crispy black pepper sembei rather than this type. It wasn't bad at all, and I did enjoy the intense spiciness, but I wouldn't purchase it again.