I once worked for a chef who, when faced with a dish that would not sell, would add the word crunchy or crispy to the menu description. “Prawns with Persian Saffron Rice”? Nada. But call the dish “Crispy Prawns with Persian Saffron rice,” and he had a best seller.
I loved the crisping and crunching of his menu, one, because it’s terribly clever, and two, I am an avid snack-tooth (as opposed to sweet-tooth). Crunch adds another dimension eating–sure, you taste sweet, salty, savory, la-la-la everything is just okay, and then CRUNCH, and the meal is way more interesting. Crunchy things satisfy our need to chew, and grind, and have some sound above all our masticating and talking. I probably order more items that say “crunchy” than not. I think most of us do.
When it comes to crunchy snacks, some go for greasy thick-cut “kettle” potato chips glistening with oil and salt crystals. Others dig dessicated pretzels. Others virtuously nibble nuts. I prefer something a bit more exotic…and expensive: Japanese rice crackers, also called senbei.
Sold in fancy little bags and boxes, individually wrapped, and lined up in rows like little snack soldiers, senbei vary in size and come seasoned with all sorts of salty goodness, from bits of nori seaweed to sesame seeds, soy nuts, and even dried shrimp. They’re light, lovely, and beyond any other crunchy snack out there. Sadly, they cost from $4-$7 a package. The way I tear through them, other arrangements had to be made.
After much experimentation, I’ve sorted out a nice, easy recipe that makes highly addictive rice crackers for much, much less than I was paying for those pretty little boxes. Here’s a little step by step photo essay (many thanks to Mr. Tofu) for making your own senbei; you’re welcome to share my addiction. The recipe is at the end of the page.
|Process Sweet Rice Flour+ Cooked Sushi Rice+ Oil+ Water|
|Add Furikake (Japanese rice seasoning)|
|Press between 2 sheets plastic…|
|Until very thin indeed|
|Bake until crisp, and then brush with honey-soy glaze|
|Dry in oven 3 minutes with oven off, watching very carefully|
|Stack o Crack-ers.|