A form of grilled confectionery, coming in various shapes, sizes and flavors. Usually eaten as a casual snack with green tea; may also be offered to visitors.
There are two types of senbei depending on the ingredients used:
- Wheat flour with egg and sugar. This type is popular in the Kansai and goes back to sweets made in China under the Tang-dynasty (7th-9th c. - in Japan the name "senbei" occurs for the first time in the year 737). Examples are kawara-senbei (in the shape of a mini roof tile) and the famous yatsuhashi from Kyoto. These are more like biscuits and have a sweet rather than savory taste.
- Rice flour. The traditional type in Eastern Japan, where there are many shops (beika senbeiya) grilling and selling these rice crackers in front of the customer. After grilling, dusted with soy sauce and mirin to give them a savory taste. Another popular flavoring is with salt. Senbei may also be wrapped in nori. Made with ordinary rice (uruchimai). In the Kansai, glutinous rice is used and there another, general name for this type of confectionery is "okaki." Due to the different type of rice used, senbei from Eastern Japan are more crunchy while those from Western Japan are more delicate in texture.
[Rice crackers wrapped in nori. Photo Ad Blankestijn]