Sembei, or Osembei with the prefix ‘O’ for politeness, is a snack as popular as everyone would like to pick one or two packets whenever they go shopping. It's also a typical accompaniment for tea.
Its major ingredients are basically non-glutinous rice and seasonings only – they are basically grilled so oil-free. But it has uncountable variation in shape, size, flavor and texture.
It usually comes in handy size of round or square shape but also comes in tiny pieces called ‘Arare’ or goes as large as human face just to surprise. It can taste savory or sweet.
The base seasoning is either shoyu (soy sauce) or salt. For sweet-tooth, icing sugar or sprinkle of granule sugar would appeal.
Because of its simplicity it matches well with many kind of ingredients.
The most authentic item to be paired with is Nori – the black sheet of seaweed – which adds a rich flavor.
Sembei into which sesame seeds are mixed is just unstoppable as sembei goes well with nuts and seeds too.
Kakinotane, for instance, which literally means ‘seed of persimmon’ is a tiny croissant shape sembei coated with spicy chili-shoyu, packed with roasted peanuts. That’s one of the classic and popular companion for a glass of chilled beer.
It can also go oily
Deep-fried sembei called ‘Okaki’ or "Age arare" is so rich and flavorful. The ingredients will be glutinous rice, vegetable oil and seasoning only and you feel nothing missed.
If you happened to have some leftover rice cakes, cut it into dices and dry them enough until they get cracked. Deep fry them and sprinkle some salt. You will readily enjoy fresh and flavorful Okaki at home.