Perhaps, eating Senbei without letting anybody notice is not so easy. Why? Crunching crispy Senbei makes noise and savory aroma drifts. Then, people around you may turn envious looks toward you, as the sounds and aroma stimulate their appetites.
Senbei, often called Osenbei or Osenbe is a Japanese traditional snack. It’s like crackers made from rice flour or wheat flour, which are different types of Senbei. Both rice flour crackers and wheat flour crackers are either roasted or fried. And both of them have various shapes: round, square, thin, thick, small rocks, etc. You can buy them in supermarkets and convenience stores, but if you visit Senbei shops, you will find original, homemade Senbei. You might be able to buy freshly cooked Senbei there.
Rice flour crackers
There are various kinds of rice crackers. As a traditional flavor, soy sauce is often used. The crackers are dipped into or brushed with soy sauce, and roasted. That is the typical Shoyu (soy sauce) Senbei. Among Senbei toppings, Shoyu flavor with Nori (purple laver, dried seaweed) is very popular. Nori may look like just a black sheet wrapping Senbei, if you don’t know what it is, but it is an edible healthy food. Different type of Nori is Aonori, which is usually powdery or flakes of green dried seaweed. You can enjoy the flavor of the sea.
Another basic flavor is Shoi (salt) that is sometimes called salad flavor. Salt flavor Senbei is lighter color and taste than soy sauce flavor.
Senbei has a lot of flavors based on soy sauce or salt, adding some ingredients, such as sesame, peanuts, cheese cream, curry powder, hot pepper powder, Wasabi (horseradish) powder, Uni (sea urchin) flavor, Ume (pickled plum) flavor, and so on. Except for these soy sauce and salt based crackers, there are some sweet flavor Senbei, coating with sugar. The icing mixed with sugar and Maccha (powdered green tea), for example.
Wheat flour crackers
One of the popular and commonly eaten snacks is Ebisen, which is made from wheat flour. Ebi means shrimp, and Ebisen contains grind shrimp. Shapes and size of Ebisen vary from small rectangular to big, thin oval.
Another popular wheat flour cracker is Kawara Senbei, shaped like a Japanese traditional roof tile. The ingredients are mainly wheat flour, eggs and sugar, so it has sweet flavor such as cracknel. The dough is poured into molds and baked. As soon as it has been baked, a hot iron decorated with motifs is pressed on it like a stamp. Pattern of landmark buildings or historical figures, often with the name of a place, are scorched. To discover the local Kawara Senbei is fun. That never gets tired of seeking them when you visit tourist spots.
Except for those Senbei, there are original Senbei products throughout Japan. If you eat soft Nure (wet) Senbei, you will be surprised with the texture. Nure Senbei is opposite texture to crispy, so you might be able to eat them quietly. Nobody notice the senbei there!