I can't believe that I've been snack blogging for coming up on two years and I hadn't sampled anything flavored with ponzu until now. This wasn't willful on my part. It's just that I hadn't encountered anything flavored with it in my cursory searches. The reason this is so strange is that ponzu, a slightly sour, tart dipping sauce, is quite common in Japanese cuisine.
My first experience in Japan with ponzu was with a teppanyaki steak restaurant. My husband and I were taken to a very expensive place in a large hotel in Ikebukuro by one of his students at that time. This particular fellow worked for Toyota, and this was back in the days when Japan was a big economic threat and the world was its oyster. On his expense account (I'm sure), we were treated to small, expertly grilled bits of meat, garlic, and onion. Each small thin slice was individually handled by an expert chef and offered up in portions that would make an American weep. Among the sauces we were given to dip these small morsels was ponzu shoyu, a mixture of soy sauce and other traditional ponzu elements like lemon or yuzu.
I discovered these sembei at Family Mart for about 170 yen ($1.90). They can only be had at convenience stores for a limited time. There are 11 crackers in the bag and each is 8 cm. x 3 cm (3.1 in. x 1.2 in.) in size. The bag touts the use of yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit) powder, but the ingredients list also includes lemon.
Sorry for the bad picture. These actually looked just like yuzukoshoo sembei I reviewed in the past, but I decided to use a bad picture instead of recycle a better one. I'm just that stupidly honest.
As soon as I opened the bag, I could smell the familiar citrus scent of ponzu. The crackers are a savory blend of salt, vinegar, lemon, yuzu, and soy sauce. The balance of these flavors is excellent. They are neither too acidic nor too savory. I could easily eat the entire bag at one sitting if spending 326 calories on something so salty weren't a monumentally imprudent thing to do. If you do the math, you'll see that each cracker is 29.6 calories.
These are excellent, crispy crackers which feel like they're perfect for summer. There's something about the citrus and vinegar nature coupled with the seasonal heat that fits just right. They're also one of those uniquely Japanese things that are relatively accessible to foreign palates, provided that you like slightly sour things made with vinegar and citrus. I strongly recommended sampling them if you have a chance.