Thursday, April 2, 2009
Black Bean Sembei (Baisen Kuromame Arare)
One thing I'm starting to realize as a result of sampling new food for this blog is that sembei is to Japanese snacking as potato chips are to American snacking. They are the blank palette on which they paint a crazy quilt of flavors just as America keeps coming up with all sorts of bizarre chip flavorings. Some of them look a bit scary and I am still not brave enough to try the ones that look like they're frosted with mucous streaks (actually, sugar, I believe), but time may give me the courage to do so.
This particular rice cracker looks like a bit of leprous amoeba, but I'm glad to say that it's actually pretty good. These are made by Kameida Seika, which is starting to become my "go to" manufacturer for tasty sembei snacks. A bag of 6 packets costs 188 yen ($1.88) and each packet is 20 grams (.7 oz.) and 91 calories. When I first saw these, I thought that they had peanuts in them, but the bag says they have black soy beans (kuromame).
The crackers are quite small and very crispy and a bit on the hard side, though not difficult to bite through. The soybeans are strongly roasted and have a nutty flavor. The crackers themselves taste like basic sembei, though they too are fairly strongly toasted. They smell a bit nutty when you first open the packet, and I think the crackers could fool someone in a blind taste test into thinking they were made with peanuts. One unfortunate aspect though is that they are rather unevenly salted. Sometimes they're immensely salty and sometimes a little bland.
These are a pretty basic cracker. The toasting (of the crackers) and the roasting (of the beans) along with the salt is where all of the flavor is coming from, but that is plenty. These are immensely savory and wonderfully crunchy. I'd definitely buy these again if I were in the mood for a nutty salted snack.