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Posts tagged: senbei

Super Senbei Saturday

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.

Making senbei

The members of Highland Park United Methodist church worked hard for two days last week on traditional Japanese senbei crackers for an upcoming fundraiser as part of Japan Week festivities.

Church members, many of them Japanese-Americans, make the crunchy, salty and sweet rice crackers for the bake sale held each year during the Sukiyaki Dinner during Japan Week. This year marks the 63rd annual dinner.

Making the crackers is a time consuming process that takes the help of many congregation members. The church uses a recipe for the crackers was first made by the issei, or first generation Japanese-Americans.

Many of the people working to make the crackers are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Even a few 90-year-old members join the volunteers. They worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday last week.

Church member Margie Myoshi invited me to come see the process.

After the wheat and rice flour dough mixed, it is cut into small pieces and then rolled out into thin sheets using a pasta roller. Keiji Shimizu was one of the rollers flattening the dough into sheets.

Then, he passed the dough to other church members who cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Then the dough pieces were tossed with a bit more rice flour to keep them from sticking together. From there baskets of crackers were passed to the frying station.

Chris Newton was among those tending the the frying crackers on Thursday.

The fried rice crackers were piled into bins while they waited for a dunk into a soy, sugar and ginger sauce. Church members tossed the crackers in the coating.

After the senbei are coated, the crackers must be dried in one of large ovens at the church.

The crew passed the crackers to Dorothy Hashimoto who turned and tending them while they dried on Thursday.

Once dry, the finished crackers were passed to a “quality control” crew, including Hisako Akiyama, 89, Emi Suemori, 90, and Charlotte Tetsuka, 86. (They are pictured at the top of this post.) They checked the final product and packaged the crackers into 4-ounce bags.

Senbei are sold for $5 per bag during the Sukiyaki Dinner.

The 63rd Annual Sukiyaki Dinner will be held noon to 6 p.m. Highland Park United Methodist Church at 611 S. Garfield St. on April 28.  Tickets are $12.50 and may be reserved by calling 928-9459, 624-6892, 534-7994 or the church at 535-2687. 

Also on sale are baked goods, (including senbei), inarizushi, crafts, church cookbook.

The senbei can also be pre-ordered by calling the church.

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Ruth Reynolds is a copy editor at the SR. "I would bake and cook more than I do if I didn't have to keep cleaning off my kitchen counters. My favorite kitchen appliance is my rice cooker. No. My immersion blender."

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