Friday, June 6, 2014

Kuchidoke Happy Turn Rice Crackers

I've been told that "Happy Turn" is a brand that many folks in Japan find familiar and comforting. The happy sembei (rice cracker) on the cover gives them the same sort of warm and fuzzy feeling that an American might get from Tony the Tiger. I'm sure he doesn't yell as loudly or often about how "grrrrrreat" things are, but I think one can do without the bellicose nature of some mascots.

Besides the familiar anthropomorphic rice cracker, I noted the color scheme of the bag. It is most elegant in its largely white design. I'm not sure what inspired it, but this is not a winter release since it is still listed on Kameda Seika's web site as an available product. I expected this to be white chocolate because of that, though there was no indication of that on the bag. That's probably because I've had white chocolate sembei before, and loved it. It was likely wishful thinking. Perhaps these are appropriate for weddings? At any rate, it caught my eye and then it grabbed my wallet.

"Kuchidoke" means "melt in your mouth" so, I was expecting something that was more in line with the kinako or cheese "mochi" sembei that I've had in the past. Those balls of spun fat and rice literally melted in your mouth. When I opened the bag and saw the same old planks of sembei that I have always seen from Happy Turn, I was disappointed, but I remained hopeful that there was going to be some magical quality to these which differentiated them from regular Happy Turn.

As it turned out, there was no magic at all. Don't misunderstand me. These are good sembei, albeit quite vinegary ones. It didn't seem particularly "melt in your mouth" compared to regular Happy Turn. Okay, maybe it was a little bit softer and less crisp, but it was nothing like the "fluffy" sembei I'd had before which literally melted like shelf-stable ice cream in my mouth. These were fresh, somewhat crispy, and rather super-charged in their flavor (like the Happy Turn 200% version, but perhaps not quite as dusty).

This is a very savory rice cracker and a well-made one at that, but it really doesn't deliver much in the way of textural variation. If you like strong, vinegary flavors, then this is going to be a pleasure, but don't expect them to melt away in your mouth or to be a very different experience from conventional Happy Turn sembei.

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