Jibachi Senbei - Gastro Obscura

Meats & Animal Products

Jibachi Senbei

Elderly villagers hunt the digger wasps that stud these Japanese rice crackers.

In the Japanese village of Omachi, elderly wasp hunters set traps in the forest. The digger wasps they ensnare are intended for jibachi senbei—rice crackers with a smattering of wasps baked into every bite. The insect-studded snack is the brainchild of a Japanese fan club for wasps and a local cracker-baker.

Digger wasps stings and paralyze other insects before eating them, but after the wasp-loving club members capture their prey, the bugs don’t stand a chance. They’re boiled and dried, then added to rice cracker mix. A hot iron cracker cutter stamps out the finished rounds. According to one reviewer, the finished cracker has a mild sweet and savory flavor, while the wasps themselves taste like burnt raisins (but with a bitter, acidic note). He also mentions the unsettling sensation of wings and legs getting stuck in his mouth.

On handing out cracker samples around town, the president of the Omachi digger wasp lovers club noted that young people are deterred by the presence of bugs, “But seniors, they love them. We even have an order from a nursing home.” 

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