Tag Archives: ASian Cooking

Japanese Rice Crackers/ Senbei (煎餅): An introduction

Nori Senbei/Rice Cracker coated with a dry seaweed

I remember eating those rice-crackers a (very) long time ago when I was at college in England!
At the time I never made the relation between these snacks and Japan!

Senbei (煎餅, alternatively spelled sembei) are a type of Japanese rice crackers. They come in various shapes, sizes, and flavors, usually savory but sometimes sweet. Senbei are often eaten with green tea as a casual snack and offered to visiting house guests as a courtesy refreshment.

Senbei are usually cooked by being baked or grilled, traditionally over charcoal. While being prepared they may be brushed with a flavoring sauce, often one made of soy sauce and mirin. They may then be wrapped with a layer of nori. Alternatively they may be flavored with salt or so-called “salad” flavoring.

In China, the same characters used to write senbei are read jiānbǐng (煎餅). There are varieties like Shandong Jianbing and Tianjin Jianbing. However, these are in actuality a different food. In China, they are more like wraps and pancakes, similar to okonomiyaki, whereas in Japan they are hard (not floppy), and are bite-sized snacks rather than meals. However, crackers similar to Japanese senbei can be found in China today. Their modern Chinese name is 仙贝 (or 鲜贝) (Pinyin: xianbei), which reflects the Japanese-language pronunciation of “senbei” (煎餅).

Sweet senbei (甘味煎餅) came to Japan during the Tang Dynasty, the first recorded usage in 737 AD, and still are very similar to Tang traditional styles, originally often baked in the Kansai area, of which include the traditional “roof tile” senbei. These include ingredients like potato and wheat flour or glutinous rice, and are similar to castella cakes. (Distinctly different from what most people would consider as Senbei today).

What Japanese commonly refer to as sembei nowadays was popularized by a shop in the Edo Period, Sōkajuku, which spread salty soy sauce flavored sembei throughout Japan.

There are several types of traditional Japanese senbei. They include the 2 categories, sweet sembei (over 15 types) and rice candy senbei (米菓煎餅), and others, which include even fish senbei (魚せんべい), lotus senbei (蓮根煎餅) and bone senbei (骨せんべい).

Modern senbei versions are very inventive and may include flavorings which can range from kimchi to wasabi to curry to chocolate.

Kansai senbei tend to use glutinous rice and have a lightly seasoned and delicate in texture (saku saku). Kantō senbei were originally based on uruchimai, a non-glutinous rice, and they tend to be more crunchy (kari kari) and richly flavored.

OTHER TYPES OF SENBEI:

ARARE

Arare (あられ “hailstones”) is a type of bite-sized Japanese cracker made from glutinous rice and flavored with soy sauce. The size and shapes are what distinguish arare from senbei.

There are many different sizes, colors, and shapes of arare. Some are sweet, and others savory. One, called norimaki arare (nori meaning an edible seaweed foodstuff in the form of a dried sheet; maki meaning roll shape) is wrapped with dried nori seaweed. Another, kaki no tane (柿の種), takes its name from its resemblance to a persimmon seed. (Kaki is Japanese for “persimmon”.) Kaki no tane are often sold with peanuts, a combination called kakipī (かきピー). These are a popular snack to accompany Japanese beer.

Hina Arare

Japanese typically consume arare to celebrate the Doll Festival (Hinamatsuri), on March 3, Girls’ Day in Japan. The arare made during the festival are very colorful – pink, yellow, white, brown, light green, and so on. Regular arare can be bought throughout the year, but the colorful ones are only available around January to March in anticipation of the Doll Festival.

Arare was brought to the U.S. by Japanese immigrants who came as plantation workers in the early 1900s. In Hawaii, the snack is often called kakimochi (fried rice paste) or mochi crunch. In Hawaii, it’s popular to mix arare with popcorn (some people mix in furikake, too). The popular Hurricane popcorn includes both arare and furikake with the popcorn. Also popular in Hawaii is li hing arare.

FANCY/SNACK/FAST FOOD SEMBEI

One can buy these anywhere in many forms of package and sets.
They are universally popular as snacks for adults and young alike!

SEnbei can even be usedto send messages, such as the above overwritten with “ありがとう/Arigatou/Thnak you”!

AGEMOCHI:

Agemochi (揚げ餅?) is a popular Japanese snack food made from fried mochi (sticky rice). The dry mochi is broken into small pieces, about 1cm cubed, and deep fried. The pieces then puff up. It is usually eaten lightly salted, but there are also various flavoured versions, such as shichimi agemochi, agemochi covered with shichimi seasoning. Agemochi can be purchased anywhere in Japan and is also a common home-made snack.

YATSUHASHI:

Yatsuhashi (八ツ橋 or 八橋) is a Japanese confectionery sold mainly as a souvenir sweet (miyagegashi). It is one of the best known meibutsu (famous regional products) of Kyoto. It is made from rice flour (上新粉, jōshinko), sugar and cinnamon. Baked, it is similar to senbei. Raw, unbaked yatsuhashi (Nama yatsuhashi) has a soft, mochi-like texture and is often eaten wrapped around red bean paste (餡, an), and may come in a variety of different flavours. Most notable to the Kyoto area is the black version of this. The addition of black bean powder to the wrapper gives a distinctive black color.

KAPPA EBISEN:

Kappa Ebisen (かっぱえびせん) is a Japanese snack food produced by Calbee of Japan. It is a crunchy, shrimp-flavored snack resembling french fries that is very popular in Japan.
The primary ingredients of Kappa Ebisen are wheat flour, vegetable oil, starch, shrimp, sugar, salt, baking powder, amino acid and sweetening.
Kappa Ebisen was first sold in 1964 and has gained wide popularity among Japanese consumers as a snack food.
In 1966, Calbee began exporting Kappa Ebisen to Hawaii and Southeast Asia.[1] It is now sold in dozens of countries worldwide.
There are different flavors of Kappa Ebisen, such as curry flavor, available in Japan and a few other countries.
A similar product known as Saewoo Ggang (새우깡) has been produced by Nongshim of South Korea since 1971. It is not licensed by Calbee.

RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES

With a Glass,
Clumsyfingers by Xethia
Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK); Ohayo Bento

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Japanese Festivals: Mishima Taisha/三嶋大社

There are many interesting festivals in Shizuoka Prefecture and it is great fun as they offer a glimpse on true traditional Japan as well on a culture that will never fade away whatever the times.
Mishima Taisha Matsuri/三嶋退社祭/Mishima Shinto Temple Festival takes place during the third week of August (15th~17th this year) to coincide with the O-Bon Festival.
So I took a fast train this morning from Shizuoka City and got off at Mishima JR Station to enjoy the sights.
Follow, if you please!

True to say, as soon as I came out of the station, a parade had just entered the same street!

At 11:30 a.m. it was already blistering hot (over 30 degrees Celsius!) but the kids kept fanning the participants!

Tough work to pull that chariot along!

And playing music on top of it was even hotter!

I’m sure they could done better with the water of that well (a pun?)!

Volunteers at crossroads made sure everyone went the right way!

Mishima City is celebrated all over Japan for its eel restaurants dotting the streets!

Another one!

Another well for thirsty people!

The streets were lined with “yatai/屋台/stands well before the entrance to the Shrine!

These cold drinks should sell quickly!

Sakurabou/long pink light bread!

Shaved ice!

The torii/鳥居/gates for the birds. Such gates are the entrances of Shinto Shrines, never at those of Budhist Temples.

We know we are there!

Sake keg from Hana no Mai Brewery in Hamamatsu City. Unfortunately there is no longer any sake brewery in Mishima City!

More stands inside the premises before the actual entrance to the Shrine. Fujinomiya City-style Yakisoba!

Yakitori!

The Park is worth visiting at any time of the year!

Goldfish catching!

A photographer’s paradise (a pun again?)?

The real entrance to a Shinto Shrine is marked with a “giant straw belt”!

A young girl going bananas? We haven’t passed through the entrance yet!

Fukutarou “Happiness” buns!

A secondary entrance through the wall surrounding the Shrine. The blazing sun was starting interfering with the photography!

Clean water is available to wash your hands before the entrance of any Shinto Shrine!

Next year is the Year of the Horse!

If the chrysanthemum of the “mon/seal” has 16 petals, the Shrine is part of the Japanese Emperor’s Cult!

What’s happening there? We’ll check later!

It is always worth it to nose around a large Shinto Shrine: Ikebana/生け花/Flowerarrangement!

Hidden gardens…

Portable fireworks!

Back to that event!

But let’s go around it first! What a blazing sun!

Impressive roofs!

Imperial “mon”!

This roof really looks like a helmet!

Your future for 200 yen (2.20 US$)!

The ladies selling at a Shrine stand/shop are supposed to be virgins…
Look at her headgear!

Knotting one’s wishes for the coming year…

Now, why are these three gentlemen dressed in Edo Era’s garb?

Those ancient clothes are certainly very elaborate!

I see! A (very solemn) tea ceremony!

The ancient shoes of the three gentlemen! Like their clothes, they must cost a fortune!

An illustrious unknown?

I walked across the other side of the gardens surrounding the Shrine on my way back to discover more stands. Japanese karaage/deep-fried chicken! Certainly better than those of that fake army officer!

Charcoal-grilled ayu trouts!

Cute young girls in yukata/summer kimono waiting for their yakisoba!

Such trees at Shinto Shrines are venerated as symbols of virility and fertility!

Now, I fancy these yakitori!

There are plenty of secondary shrines on the premises near waterways and small bridges!

There was another parade chariot at the side entrance with some good percussion music!

But the old guy was already probably thinking about all the Japanese sake sitting beside him!

Now, getting this chariot was sheer brutal work in that heat! It took them three tries before they could manage inching forward!

Walking around the park back to the station is also worth the effort!

Beautiful water running down from nearby Mount Fuji!

The wild ducks certainly love it!

A small bridge turned into a personal garden!

Plenty of clean water to safely play in!

Young ladies certainly welcomed the fresh water!

Whole families were thus escaping from the heat!

i could have stayed hours in such surroundings!

In Japan, always keep a look for English signs!
I know that the Japanese are probably the longest living people in the World but I still wonder…

Back at the station, all these lanterns announced the Festival. Pity I couldn’t stay still night!

There was even an on-going Japanese drum concert by a whole host of teams!

The last image of the heat of the day before I boarded the train back to Shizuoka City.
Would you believe it was pouring 30 minutes later back there with a double-digit drop in temperatute?

More to come!

RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES

With a Glass,
Clumsyfingers by Xethia
Adventures in Bento Making, American Bento, Beanbento, Bento No1, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box, My Bento Box, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat; Bento Lunch Blog (German); Adventures In Bento; Anna The Red’s Bento Factory; Cooking Cute; Timeless Gourmet; Bento Bug; Ideal Meal; Bentosaurus; Mr. Foodie (London/UK); Ohayo Bento

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery