Friday, October 7, 2011
Bakauke Cream Cheese Sembei
I didn't realize this, but both of the snacks that I'm reviewing this week are white. I guess that is a reflection of the seasonal change, or perhaps I'm just turning into some freaky snack racist. It's a good thing that my next review isn't the "White Boyfriend Cat's Tongue" cookies or I'd start to feel acutely uncomfortable with my choices.
I haven't reviewed sembei (rice crackers) for awhile because there haven't been much in the way of new flavor combinations. I've actually tried quite a few new things including new kinako and wasabi crackers, but the truth is that I don't know that my readers are served well by hearing about every iteration of these types of flavors. Yes, each is a little different, but not markedly so. This is the first time I've seen cream cheese flavor sembei, so I figured it was a good time to spotlight a long neglected category of Japanese snacks.
I found these at Okashi no Machioka snack shop for about 160 yen ($2.07). The package, which has illustrations of red leaves on it to let you know this is an autumn release, says that this is a product of Niigata. Based on the Wikipedia entry about Niigata, I don't see how cream cheese relates to that area, but rice is their principle agricultural product. I'm guessing it's the cracker that is from that area, not the cream cheese.
The crackers smell a bit cheesy which shouldn't be surprising, but somehow it is. As I've said before, I've lived in Japan long enough to have no confidence in naming. If it says "cream cheese", I know that there is a broad range of tastes outside of cheese that could be on hand. These do, however, have a nice cream cheese flavor. What is better though is that they taste like a cream-cheese based dip which is flavored with other savory elements like vinegar, onion powder, and meat flavoring. It's like the dip is conveniently included in the cracker.
I really enjoyed these, and I am also pleased with the number of calories since each packet of two crackers is only 35.5 calories. Since the crackers are fairly big, one or two packets is a pretty satisfying serving. My guess is that these will only be around for about 4 months. The Bakauke brand seems to be slowing down a bit in Japan as I see more releases from Befco (the company that makes this line) which are fairly generic-looking crackers rather than the distinctive banana-shaped Bakauke style. I'm not sure why this is, or how it relates to the seasonal nature of this flavor, but there it is. At any rate, I'd say give these a shot if you're a fan of savory flavors and cream cheese. They're very tasty.