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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Japanese Rice Cracker – Arare

One of my favorite Japanese rice crackers is a treat called Arare (あられ), a type of bit-sized round balls that resemble snow pellets (hail), and are made from glutinous rice and flavored with soy sauce.

The smaller crackers of various colors in the photo above are called hina arare (snow pellets)... the other larger and odd-shaped ones are simply slight various on a theme.

They are identical to senbei rice crackers – those common ones we have all eaten in Japan – except for their size and shape… and color.

Now… some of these arare are sweet… others are savory.

One type is norimaki ararenori is dry seaweed, and maki means “roll shape”. Huh… I didn’t know that’s what maki was. Anyhow, in this case the arare are wrapped with dry nori seaweed.

Other forms are the kaki no tane (kaki is persimmon)… and is a variation that looks like a persimmon seed.

The first time I ate arare, however, was atop a beer garden in Osaka a few months after arriving in Japan… when I got lost, met someone who was the pen pal of someone I knew back in Toronto… and made out with her before we went to the beer garden atop a Japanese hotel to meet her boyfriend.

Japan is weird. I had no idea there were beer gardens in Japan. Oh yeah… and that boyfriend thing.

With our orders of beer, we were served these little rice cracker balls… delicious!

Aside from beer gardens that serve arare like they are peanuts back in bars in Canada et al, these arare rice crackers are usually consumed to celebrate Hinamatsuri (the Doll Festival) on March 3 – aka Girl’s Day in Japan.

At this time, these colorful arare (pink, yellow, light green, brown and white) are made between January and March in anticipation of the Girl’s Day festival… though you can purchase the regular stuff at any time during the year… hence my beer crackers.

By the way… her boyfriend was very nice and when I met him and felt guilty on behalf of his lecherous girlfriend who was very willing and able to give herself to me… well, I bought him quite a few beers to assuage my guilt.

By the second-year of my stay, and realizing that for whatever reason Japanese women seemed to like my smile, I never bothered to ask if anyone was married or had a boyfriend, because I figured everybody was an adult, and ultimately any decisions to be made were up to the individual. 

Love those crackers!


Andrew Joseph

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