Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Sanko Seika Kongari "W" Cheese Sembei
It seems rather curious to me that the Japanese use "W" to indicate "double" considering that that letter is not a part of their alphabet. This is the second product to use "W" in this way. The first was one of my nearest and dearest loves in Japan, double cream brown sugar sembei, also made by Sanko Seika. Note that those particular sembei remain on the shelves after quite a long time, so I'm guessing they are very popular.
"Kongari" in Japanese means "browned" and these crackers have delicately brown edges and little brown bumps on their wavy surface. If nothing else, they have a nice product design. These smell like baked cheese and rice, unsurprisingly. The first bite is a nice pungent blast of cheese without being too overbearing. The crackers themselves are very crispy and what the Japanese refer to as "hard" sembei. That is, it's not airy and puffy but more brittle. The two types of cheeses that are used in these are cheddar and Camembert, and I could actually taste both, though the cheddar was actually more present. The Camembert hit more as a bit of a mellow sourness. There's also a whisper of garlic savoriness.
The extent to which I love a product is always reflected in how rapidly I polish off most of it before I write a review. I ate all but one of these within about a week, and then had to leave that one in the bag for sampling when review writing time finally caught up with me. I loved these. They had great crunch, excellent cheese flavor that had at least some verisimilitude with the taste of real cheese, and they're only 25 calories per (medium-size, think 1.5 times the size of a Triscuit) cracker. I don't know what it is about sembei, but it's so much easier to exercise portion control with them than with things like potato chips.
I found these at Okashi no Machioka for 158 yen ($1.79) for a bag of 12, but I've seen them on sale virtually everywhere. With any luck, these will join the brown sugar sembei as a market staple in the sembei sections. If you can find them, I heartily recommend trying them.