This is a popular food in the city of Hachinohe, but is it as good as its popularity warrants?

In the age of the pandemic, we’ve all become familiar with a scenario where a normally easy-to-find product has shortages and stores place limits on how many an individual can buy. Whether it’s because of supply and distribution issues, panic buying, scalpers, or some viral social media post or video making more people want it than usual, these days we hardly bat an eye and just hope the craze will be over soon.

What we don’t expect is when something strange has purchase limits on it, like “cracker crusts”. What even is that? Our own Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato happened to come across them in a 7-Eleven in Aomori that had a “one-per-family” limit. Why? And for what?

On his three-day, two-night trip to Hachinohe City on the northeast coast of Aomori, Mr. Sato, as usual, made a stop at the corner convenience store just outside of his hotel to see if they sold anything unique to Aomori there.

At first, he didn’t really see anything different from the 7-Elevens in his hometown of Tokyo. They had some rice balls and bentos with local ingredients, but that was about it. At least, until he spotted huge bags of large senbei in the refrigerated bento section!

These were “Nanbu Senbei”, which are large, round wheat crackers popular in the Hachinohe region and in Iwate Prefecture. At this 7-Eleven, they sold “Plain”, “Light Sesame”, “Sesame”…

“Bean”, “Sugar”, and ”Wild Sesame” flavors.

These Nambu Senbei were made by the long-established cracker company Oyamada Senbei-ten, which is based out of the nearby city of Sannohe.

But while these piqued Mr. Sato’s interest, there was something else above them that truly caught his eye: a sign that read, “For the cracker crusts, please limit your purchase to one per family.”

“What?!” Mr. Sato mumbled. “Cracker crusts?! I’ve heard of bread crusts, of course, but do crackers even have crusts?”

Mr. Sato asked a local, and apparently, the crusts are the scraps that result from cutting the Nambu Senbei into circles. Oyamada Senbei-ten’s cracker crusts are highly popular; some people even go all the way to Sannohe just to buy them.

This is what they look like up close. They almost looked like dried sweet potato chips or squid jerky. They cost Mr. Sato 290 yen (US$2.07).

For cracker pieces, they have a surprisingly short shelf life. Mr. Sato bought his on 5 November, but these were listed to expire on 9 November. He’d have to eat them in four days, but that was no tall ask for foodie Mr. Sato.

When Mr. Sato poured them onto a plate, they looked even more like sweet potato chips.

Mr. Sato picked one up to try and took a bite. The texture was like eating very firm mochi. It had a very solid feel in his mouth, and the more he chewed it, the better it tasted. It also had a very faint flavor of salt and sesame, but Mr. Sato wouldn’t say he was blown away by it.

But when he finished one, he immediately reached for another, and when that one was finished, he ate another. Before he could stop himself, he’d fallen into an unending snacking loop!

That must be the secret to the popularity of Oyamada Senbei-ten’s cracker crusts. Once you try them, even just one bite, you become mysteriously addicted. Like dried squid, the more you eat, the more addictive it becomes!

These “cracker crusts” are strange, but Mr. Sato cannot not recommend them after tasting them, even if they aren’t particularly special in flavor. If you happen to find some at a store near you, try them…if you dare to develop a new unbreakable habit.

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[ Read in Japanese ]