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Goin’ Japanesque!

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
Arare, Okaki http://www.kintokibeika.co.jp/

kakinotane
kaki-no-tane

 

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

senbei-rice-crackers2
Coated with sugar, zarame senbei often use shōyu senbei as their base and boast a sweet and salty tastiness.

3. Goma Senbei

These senbei have sesame seeds embedded in them.

4. Nori Senbei

senbei-rice-crackers3
If you know how well rice pairs with dried seaweed (“nori”), you’ll understand just how delicious nori senbei can be.

5. Miso Senbei

senbei-rice-crackers4
http://www.fujimuraya.com/

Flavored with miso, this type of senbei is famous as a Kyoto snack.

6. Salad Senbei

senbei-rice-crackers5
These senbei are flavored with salt and sprayed in cooking oil (called “salad oil” in Japan).

7. Age-senbei

senbei-rice-crackers6
http://www.karintou-kagetsu.com/

These deep-fried senbei are characterized by a crispy texture.

senbei-rice-crackers7
http://erecipe.woman.excite.co.jp/

This category also includes ebi (“shrimp”) senbei, often enjoyed as a side to drinks at Japanese pubs and elsewhere.

8. Nure-senbei

senbei-rice-crackers8
These rice crackers are rich and moist: they exude aromatic soy sauce flavor when chewed slowly.

 

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.

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