Category Archives: crackers

Japanese Tea Duo – Genmaicha and Mugicha

I’m not much of a tea drinker but these two varieties are quite enjoyable.

Genmaicha is a “Japanese brown rice green tea consisting of green tea mixed with roasted popped brown rice” according to Wikipedia.

I was intrigued when I saw it listed on the menu in my favourite all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant and ordered it. Instead, I was served jasmine tea. It was hard to understand the server but I got the impression that they didn’t have it. I don’t know if they EVER had it. In any case, I looked for it at my newest ‘go to’ Asian grocery store and came home with a bag.

Some ‘recipes’ are pretty complicated … apparently you can get THREE brews of tea from the same spoon of tea. The water temperature varies among each brew. Or, if you just want a simple cup … add 1 cup of boiled water (150-170 deg F) to 1 tsp of the genmaicha and let steep for 1-3 minutes. You can drink it plain or with a splash of milk.

I wasn’t sure which mug/cup I wanted to use so I pulled out an assortment and had the tea plain.

The second tea, mugicha, is a roasted barley tea so it’s caffeine free. I had some pearl barley in my pantry so I decided to roast my own (REAL mugicha is made with roasted hull-on barley). It can be drunk hot or cold (refrigerated/iced). I added honey and lemon to the jar of cold mugicha.

Homemade Mugicha (Japanese Roasted Barley Tea) – makes 8 cups

1/3 cup uncooked pearl barley
8 cups water

Optional add-ins
sliced lemons, sugar or honey

Put the barley in a large dry skillet and toast over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring the grains and shaking the skillet occasionally so that they toast evenly, until the grains have turned a dark rich brown color. Remove from the heat and pour out into a bowl or a paper towel to cool.

Before and after toasting (8 minutes) the pearl barley

I was curious if it would get darker still so I roasted half the previously barley for another 4 minutes … a total of 12 minutes. I didn’t really see, or taste, much of a difference in the tea made from the two batches.

Bring the water to a boil in a pot, add the cooled toasted barley, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the barley continue to steep as the mugicha cools, for about 5 minutes.

Strain out the barley and drink immediately, or store in the fridge to drink it cold. Flavor with optional lemon and honey or sugar when ready to drink.

There’s nothing like drinking a cup of tea with a biscuit or, in Japan, a rice cracker (senbei). I made my own senbei and shared them in an earlier post but brought home a package ($3.49) to taste test.

There are 8 of these mini packages (each with 2 crackers inside) inside the big bag.

The crackers were basted with soy sauce and had shredded nori sprinkled over the top.

Nice and puffy interior

They were delicious but very MOR-ish, so you can’t eat just one mini pack.

Bonus: Strawberry tapioca ball tea … my first time trying this type of tea. Enjoyable as it was refreshing and just slightly sweetened.

Senbei (Japanese Rice Crackers)

I recently visited two different Asian grocery stores and came home with a treasure trove of staples for future, mostly Japanese based, goodies.

Mochiko, is a sweet rice flour used for dango, mochi and, this post’s focus, “senbei” or savoury Japanese rice crackers. The same recipe was found on several web sites so I’ll post a link to only one.

Senbei

For additional umami, wrap your cracker in a strip of toasted nori.

Furikake (rice seasoning) was added to the dough before it was kneaded into a compact ball.  To ensure even sized crackers without weighing out each one individually, I cut the ball of cracker dough in half and then cut each half into eight wedges.

To make sure that the final cut was accurate, I formed each of the eight wedges into a ball (~16 gm) and then cut it in half before rolling it into a final hazelnut-sized ball (~8gm). The balls were placed between two sheets of sturdy plastic (a freezer bag cut along the two sides works well) and pressed flat with the lid of a large canning jar. I ended up with 32 thin disks (2 1/2-3″ in diameter) which were baked at 350 deg F for 8 minutes before being flipped over and baked for another 8 minutes until lightly golden.

For a final flourish, the oven was turned off, and the crackers were brushed with a mixture of soy sauce (aged, dark soy sauce or regular) and mirin and returned to the turned off oven for another 3 minutes. After cooling the tray on a rack for 15 minutes, the cool crackers may be stored in an air tight container to maintain crispiness, though you’ll nibble on these simple, but ‘morish’ crackers quickly enough that they won’t go soft.

REVIEW: Delicious and well worth making even if a bit time consuming. One batch of the dough gave me 32 crackers, which weighed about 170 grams.