Proof that one country’s horror is another’s hunger.

Japan is big on souvenirs, and not just for friends and family. If you’ve got a client or other business partner that you have a long-term relationship with, you can expect some occasional travel-related gift-giving to take place, and since food is the most popular form of souvenir in Japan, that means that sometimes you’ll be leaving the office at the end of the day with some newly acquired snacks.

That was the case for Japanese Twitter user Micchi’s (@Bearchen_news) husband, who’d received an edible gift from one of his customers. However, rather than getting his mouth watering, the souvenir nearly brought tears of terror to his eyes. “I got these scary cookies from a client,” Micchi’s husband explained, adding “They look like something you’d see on display in the Cretaceous period section at the natural history museum.”

So just what were these unnerving snacks from the supposedly distant past?

They’re ebi senbei, senbei (Japanese rice crackers) made with ebi (shrimp). And in a case of clear cross-cultural culinary inconsistency, even though Micchi’s husband was severely freaked out by the gift, Micchi herself was licking her lips. “To me, these are an undeniable delicacy,” the Japanese wife tweeted with the photo, and several Japanese commenters agreed with her, responding with:

“Ebi senbei smell and taste so good! But I guess I can only think that because I’m used to how they look.”
“I love those things! I’d be like, ‘Oh, so you don’t want any?’ and eat them all myself!”
“They go great with sake.”
“Oh, wow, those are the really expensive kind of ebi senbei.”

At least part of Micchi’s husband’s shock seems to come from his initial assumption that he’d been given cookies, i.e. sweets. But senbei are salty, and even someone with no experience with Japanese food would have to agree that “shrimp crackers” sound a lot more appetizing than “shrimp cookies.” Micchi even mentions that her husband likes Japanese snack food maker Calbee’s popular Kappa Ebisen shrimp crackers, which are made with shrimp but don’t look like the sea creatures themselves.

But the stark difference in the married couple’s reactions drives home something about Japanese cooking, which is that Japan isn’t at all squeamish about its seafood-based snacks looking exactly like its star ingredient. Having the shrimp clearly visible in the ebi senbei emphasizes the luxurious use of whole shrimp, and you can see similar examples in other senbei, like tako senbei, made with whole octopi

…or ika senbei/squid crackers.

And one can only imagine the trauma that Micchi’s husband would suffer from seeing how tako senbei are made: by laying the octopi on a flat grill, pouring batter over them, then pressing down a heavy clamping lid to cook them while forcing out any remaining moisture with a loud hiss.

▼ Tako senbei are a specialty of Enoshima Island, in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Having grown up in a culture where bite-sized shrimp discs aren’t part of the snack food landscape, it may be some time before Micchi’s husband can see the ebi senbei as the delicacies that Japanese snackers do. Until then, he might want to stick to inland senbei varieties, though the wasp rice crackers we ate a pack of are probably also something he’ll want to avoid.

Source: Twitter/@Bearchen_news via Hachima Kiko
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Follow Casey on Twitter for more reasons Enoshima is awesome.