There's just something about senbei.
Perhaps it is the combination of salty and sweet. Maybe it is the satisfying crunch… I'm not exactly sure what it is, but they are delicious.
This year, the volunteers at the Spokane Buddhist Temple invited me to stop by the kitchen on Super Senbei Saturday. Minister's assistant Jefferson Workman and a the sangha - that's a Sanskrit word for Buddhist community - were working hard to mix, roll, cut, fry and toss the senbei crackers in sauce for the upcoming Haru Matsuri, or Spring Food Festival.
More than 50 temple members gather to make some of the foods for the annual event during Spokane's Japan Week for a few weekends in advance. In addition to senbei, they offer teriyaki chicken dinners with miso soup and rice, various kinds of sushi and some baked goods at the festival. This year it is Sunday, April 21 from noon to 4 p.m. at the temple, 927 S. Perry St.
By noon on Super Senbei Saturday, the crew had already been working for more than four hours. Volunteers at different stations were running the sesame-studded rice flour dough through pasta rollers. Or, they were cutting the long strips of dough into small crackers. Still others were stirring as the crackers fried in a large wok in the kitchen.
Workman was tossing the fried crackers into the air from a stainless steel bowl to ensure that they were well coated with the sweetened soy sauce. The crackers were then dried in the oven before they were bagged for the sale.
By the end of the day, 230 bags of senbei were finished for the sale.
You can take your chances that there will still be some of the crackers left when you swing by on Sunday. (Be warned that there were rumors that some people buy extra bags to store in their freezers. I'm thinking of becoming one of those people). Or, pre-order crackers (or anything else on the menu) on the temple's website.
When you stop by for the Japanese food, walk through the beautiful temple which will be open for tours.
For those who miss out on the Spokane Buddhist Temple fundraiser, there's another chance for senbei the following Saturday, April 27 at the Highland Park United Methodist Church's 64th Sukiyaki Dinner.
I went to see their senbei making operation last year.
The sukiyaki dinner will be held at 611 S. Garfield St. noon to 7 p.m. Dinner is $12.50 per person, there will also be a bake sale, senbei, a sushi bar and craft sale.
Reach the church at (509) 535-2687 to make a reservation or get more information.