By Rachel on February 25, 2008
Senbei, okaki, and arare, the elusive Japanese rice crackers. Or I should say, good senbei, okaki and arare are elusive. I’ve had my fair share of senbei and arare mixes, most of which have been underwhelming in terms of excitement and enjoyability. They all seem to taste the same with varying differences in texture and size. Everything tastes like shoyu (soy sauce), nori and sugar. These flavors are great, but given the huge diversity in appearance and packaging, shouldn’t there be just as many flavors to match?
Arare (hail stones) are made with glutinous rice (mochi kome). They can be either fried or baked, and have a crunchier texture than senbei. I like arare since they’re smaller than senbei and seem to come in more flavors as well. This particular snack, Tsuna Age Arare, is tare, “dressing” flavor.
Great packaging for this snack. The green is appealing as is the bold kanji and equally bold romanji. The contrast in colors and reflective textures made this bag eye-catching in a sea of other Asian snacks. The actual arare are proudly displayed on the front and the back gives a brief description of the contents: “Japanese crispy snack. Dressing and salty taste. Good quality.” I like it when I’m informed how a particular food will taste. Score: A+
Tsuna means “rope” and Age means “fried” in Japanese, it’s a fitting description for a snack that looks like twisted bits of deep-fried rope. The matte texture is a departure from the shiny sugar and shoyu glaze many rice crakers sport. Score: B
Tsuna age arare has a truly gratifying crunch. However, the crunch quickly melts way and becomes a greasy paste. These arare are definitely different than other rice crackers; they’re really greasy and oily. The oil sticks to the back of the throat and is too cloying. It’s actually disgusting how oily these crackers are.
One of the main reasons I like Japanese snacks is because the majority of them have a light taste and texture, even in the instances they’re fried. The grease in these rice crackers is a major turn off. I keep having to clear my throat or drink hot tea to get the oil out. My hands are also greasy. Gross. This is an unexpected find in a Japanese snack and very, very unwelcome. Score: F
Dressing? Tare? These are supposed to taste like dressing? I wasn’t expecting a Catalina salad dressing flavor, but I was expecting some sort of vinegary tang. I’ve made many tare (dressings) and they utilize vinegars, miso, sesame, ginger and shoyu. Tuna age doesn’t even come close to any of those. One of the ingredients is vinegar powder, but it’s the seventh one listed. Vegetable oil is number two on the ingredient list. Oil wins over vinegar in this round.
These lil’ nasties remind me strongly of the American snack, Bugles. They taste like greasy, deep fried corn snacks, but there’s no corn in tsuna age. So there’s vinegar, but I can’t taste it, and there’s no corn and yet I taste corn…Score: F
I’m very unhappy with this Japanese snack. It’s disgusting and nasty. This Japanese cracker is just like many American junk foods, right down to the grease and lack of sophisticated flavor. Even prior arare, which have let me down in the flavor department are way, way better than this. I’d rather eat shoyu and sugar then these icky deep fried concoctions.
2 Comments to “ Tsuna Age Arare: A Japanese Rice Cracker With a Twist ”
February 27th, 2008 at 6:33 amI think I’ve a snack similar to this and I agree with your assessment…I definitely won’t be buying them again.
February 27th, 2008 at 8:20 am@Catlin, I saw a different tsuna age arare at the Chinese supermarket, and being the softie I am, I bought it. It’s nori flavored, a fave, but I’m going to wait to try it. Hopefully it’s not greasy like this crap.