Know your Rice Cracker: Shape, Flavor, and Ingredients
Rice crackers are a popular and deliciously addictive snack food made from rice, but did you know that there are actually many different types of rice crackers? Take a look at our rundown of rice cracker classification and find one that suits your palate perfectly!
The History of Rice Crackers
The birthplace of rice crackers in Japan is believed to be Sōka in Saitama, famous from ancient times as a rice-producing region. During the rice harvest, excess rice would be formed into dumpling balls to be dried and stored, which became the first Sōka senbei (a type of rice cracker: more on this later). During the Edo period, Sōka flourished as a station town along the Nikkō Kaidō and so senbei transformed from simply a preserved food to something that really started to sell. Thanks to nearby Noda, a city in Chiba famous for its soy sauce (as well as the Kikkoman brand), these senbei got a flavor boost from being basted in soy sauce. And that’s how the archetypical rice cracker we enjoy nowadays got its start.
Different Names from Different Materials
Senbei: made from regular white rice
Arare/Okaki: made from glutinous rice
Generally, “arare” is for smaller rice crackers and “okaki” for larger ones. Unrivalled as a snack when drinking, kaki-no-tane (a popular rice cracker often combined with peanuts) are in the “glutinous rice” group.
Arare, Okaki http://www.kintokibeika.co.jp/
Types of Senbei
Within the greater category of crackers made from ordinary rice, there are further subdivisions based on flavor and type. We’ve provided you a breakdown below.
1. Shōyu Senbei
Rich with the irresistible fragrance of soy sauce, this is by far the most common type of senbei. The soy sauce used isn’t regular soy sauce but tamari-shōyu (“accumulated soy sauce”), which is darker and richer than regular shōyu.
Related: Learn About Soy Sauce: How Much Do You Know About Shoyu?
2. Zarame Senbei
3. Goma Senbei
These senbei have sesame seeds embedded in them.
4. Nori Senbei
5. Miso Senbei
Flavored with miso, this type of senbei is famous as a Kyoto snack.
6. Salad Senbei
These deep-fried senbei are characterized by a crispy texture.
This category also includes ebi (“shrimp”) senbei, often enjoyed as a side to drinks at Japanese pubs and elsewhere.
Our #1 recommendation is the last item on our list today, nure-senbei. If you’ve not tried them before, be sure to give them a shot! They make a fabulous snack if you put a little mayonnaise on top.