Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Kingodo Fukurekko Sembei
There's an episode of the old T.V. comedy "Roseanne" where she and her husband spent the night at a hotel for a romantic night away from their kids. The hotel was cheap and cheesy and they ordered a pizza. The characters aren't really the champagne and caviar types. Anyway, there's a piece of pizza which has a "brown bubble" on it and Roseanne says that she wants that piece because it had the bubble, but Dan took the topping off of it.
I mention this little scene because I can understand the appeal of bubbles on food and that was pretty much the reason I decided to try this Fukurekko (ふくれっこ) sembei. Fukurekko, incidentally, appears to mean "swell", so the idea is that these sembei have swollen up. When you translate it, it doesn't sound very appetizing actually. I think I'll stick with the idea that these are like bubble sembei.
These are made by a company named Kingodo. It's a new one to me and appears to mainly be a rice cracker maker with a limited range of products. It was founded in 1950, and has a head office in Nakano in Tokyo. This is actually an area very close to where I currently live (about a 5 minute-train ride) and a place I used to stop by often when I was working at Nova conversation school about 19 years ago. There's a great yakitori place there which we favored. Anyway, the company has 140 employees and is relatively small. I'm surprised that I even found their products on shelves at my local shops since the competition for shelf space is so fierce and the big boys usually get all of the glory.
The flavor of these crackers is actually pretty typical for Japanese rice crackers. It has a nice savory soy-sauce-based flavor and pretty much smells like usual sembei. The first ingredient is rice and the second is soy sauce. The main selling point of these is the crispy texture which is enhanced by the bubbles. It provides more layers of thin, crispy cracker without actually requiring another cracker.
I really liked these. They're perfectly salty and don't have the strong baked rice smell that some types of sembei have. I loved the texture and they're only 17.5 calories per 5-cm. (2 in.) cracker. I'd definitely buy these again. There's only one point which didn't work so well and that's the fact that they're not individually wrapped and if you don't eat them, they start to get a little stale quickly. I can't believe I'm actually saying something in Japan that isn't over-packaged should be packaged more, but the gel pack in the bag didn't quite manage to keep the crackers crispy in the 3 weeks it took me to eat the whole bag.