Senbei are extremely popular in Japan, particularly around New Year, and there are literally thousands of varieties. Usually they are slowly grilled using a special iron plate to make them dry and crispy, but you can also fry them like I do here. Senbei are also often given as gifts, as they store well and are always gratefully received. You can try out different flavours, such as adding seaweed powder or mushroom powder to the rice mix. Making them is a bit fiddly at first, but spreading them on discs is the best way to get a nice round shape. Often they are dusted with icing sugar once fried, as a sweet / savoury mix, and it’s surprisingly good.
How to make Senbei
Makes: Snacks for 4 people (32 crackers)
Time to prepare: 45 minutes
200g cooked rice
2 egg whites
4g sea salt
a pinch of sesame seeds
500ml vegetable oil
measuring jug or tall container
non-stick baking paper
metal ring or glass (approx. 80mm diameter)
pencil or pen
wok or deep wide pan
1. Put the rice, egg whites, and salt into a jug and blend them with a hand blender to a smooth paste. This will be very sticky.
2. Next take some baking paper and fold it into a square the size of the metal ring or glass. 3. Place the ring or glass onto the paper and draw a circle round it to mark where to cut. 4. Then cut the circles out with scissors. You will need about 32 of them.
5. Lay out another sheet of baking paper to cover the table, and spread the discs over it.
6. Heat up the oil in the pan or wok to about 160°C.
7. Now using a spatula spread a layer of the rice mix onto the discs, about 2mm thick. Keep going until you have used all the mix up. Then sprinkle them with sesame seeds.
8. Then carefully place about 5 or 6 of the rice discs at a time into the hot oil, with the rice side downwards. Let them fry for about 3 or 4 minutes, then turn them over for another minute to finish. Once they have a nice golden-brown colour and there are no more white bits, remove them to drain on a rack. They should feel crisp to touch.
9. Once they’re cooked, arrange them nicely in a bowl with some paper.