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Senbei part of annual sukiyaki dinner

Wed., April 18, 2012

Perhaps the members of the Highland Park United Methodist Church have discovered the fountain of youth.

Church members spent two days rolling, cutting, frying and coating senbei crackers last week for the church’s upcoming fundraiser and sukiyaki dinner. Most of those helping with the work were well into their 70s and 80s. A couple of 90-year-old church members were among the hard-working crew.

“Eating senbei makes you younger,” said Marc Takeshita, as he helped roll and cut dough for the rice crackers.

Church members make the crispy, salty and sweet crackers for the annual fundraiser. There are many different types of senbei, also called sembei. At Highland Park, they follow a recipe handed down by the first-generation Japanese-Americans, or issei.

“You can buy them in a store … but they’re not as good,” said church member Margie Myoshi.

It takes two days and help from more than 50 people to make the popular crackers. They start by making dough from a mixture of rice and wheat flour. It is studded with black sesame seeds. The humidity and weather can make it difficult to get the right consistency, Myoshi said.

The finished dough is cut into pieces and rolled flat using pasta rollers and cut with pizza cutters. The crackers are fried in batches and then tossed with a coating made from soy sauce, sugar and ginger.

The finished crackers are turned by hand as they dry in metal ovens before a quality-control team checks them and packages them for sale. Pictures of the church members making senbei are posted at blogs/too-many-cooks.

The senbei will be sold in 4-ounce bags for $5 at the church’s 63rd Annual Sukiyaki Dinner on April 28. Highland Park United Methodist Church is located at 611 S. Garfield St. Sukiyaki is served noon to 7 p.m. Baked goods, including the senbei, are also sold at the fundraiser along with crafts. Come early for senbei. 

Tickets to the sukiyaki dinner, made with beef or tofu, are $12.50 each and may be reserved by calling the church at (509) 535-2687. Senbei also can be pre-ordered.

The sukiyaki dinner is the culminating food event for the annual Japan Week festivities. Japan Week is a community celebration of Japanese culture held every year since 1992. It features performances, art, food and cultural demonstrations.

The full schedule of events, which kicks off at noon Saturday in River Park Square, can be found at www.japanweek

Here are the other Japan Week food events:

• Sunday : 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Haru Matsuri Spring Food Festival, Spokane Buddhist Temple, 927 S. Perry St. Featuring Japanese chicken teriyaki bento box lunch, $12, with rice, miso soup and cabbage; senbei, $4; and a variety of sushi, $5 to $8. Takeout only. Preorder at www.spokanebuddhist or call (509) 534-7954.

• April 26 : 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., SFCC Japanese Food Sale, SFCC Sub Lounges A, B and C, 3410 W. Fort George Wright Drive. Four different Japanese dishes are featured. (509) 533-3367

• April 27 : 11 a.m. to noon, Corbin Senior Activity Center, 827 W. Cleveland, Japanese Cooking Demo with Izumi. Call (509) 327-1584, ext. 10.

We’re always looking for fresh food news. Write to: The Fresh Sheet, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call (509) 459-5446, fax to (509) 459-5098 or send an email to


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