Monday, January 30, 2006

Favorite Things: Sembei

If you go to Tokyo, along the pathway to the temple in Akusaka there are vendors selling hundreds of kinds of "sembei" or Japanese rice crackers. Though the crackers originated in China, in 806 AD a Buddhist monk brought the recipe to Japan where the Japanese have perfected the art of sembei. Even today they continue to innovate, coming up with new flavors, designs and specialties which vary from region to region in Japan.

In Japan, both sweet and savory sembei are not just a snack but often given as a gift. No ordinary snack they are like little works of art. Made from rice, peanuts and soy they are flavored, sometimes with sesame seeds, soy sauce, nori (seaweed) or red chili.

At the Winter Fancy Food Show this year, a family owned Japanese company Fujiya Seika and subsidiary Hidemi exhibited a beautiful range of crackers and confections. Representing the company were brother and sister, Tomio, who lives where the confections are made in Osaka and Hidemi, who lives in Texas. Tomio focuses on the savory snacks and Hidemi on the sweet confections.

Their snacks are as delicious to eat as they are to look at. Perfect with cocktails or as part of a appetizer buffet they are much more nutritious than typical American snacks. Some of the more unusual treats included green tea cookies, crunchy blueberries and charcoal covered peanuts. With any luck we will see these delicious treats in stores soon!