It's the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, it's when all of the chestnut sweets start showing up on shelves in Japan... or Japanese markets in my local area. I was thrilled when I saw these chestnut and milk sembei at Niyija market for $2.99. Though I sometimes have issues with the combination of the baked rice flavor of sembei coupled with sweet frosting-style flavorings, this was really too enticing to pass up, even at a somewhat premium price.
The picture on the ront of the bag shows a mont blanc confection as well as a few chestnuts. One has to consider that these are merely there to create visions of such things in your head rather than tell you what the sembei actually tastes like. The truth ended up being that this actually was much closer to mont blanc than chestnuts. No one was more surprised by this than me. As an enormous fan of mont blanc, you'd think it would trhill me. Not quite...
The issue with this was that there was the hint of chestnut, the sweetness, and a hint of what seemed like alcohol. Sometimes, there is brandy in the chestnut paste used in making mont blanc, and I think that flavor was conveyed in the frosting on these rice crackers. This is not a particularly bad thing, but that flavor was stronger than the others (aside from the basic rice cracker flavor itself).
I liked these, though not as much as I'd hoped. I think that they do convey the flavor of chestnut cream, but I'd like the flavor to be somewhat more potent. I'm more than happy to have this bag as a salty sweet, but, if it shows up again next year, I wouldn't buy another bag. It's good as a novelty, but not something that I'd seek again and again - at least not for the standard price.
It's interesting to note that the Sanko Seika "Snow Inn" line is turning into the rice cracker equivalent of weird KitKtas. Besides lemon and mango sembei, they've released this chestnut cream variety as well as a strawberry cream one. Though American fans of Japanese snacks are unlikely to get as excited by sembei as by chocolate-covered wafers, I am intrigued by their flavor diversity and will continue to sample new products as long as they keep making them.