Although the above picture might look like something out of a nightmare, these crackers are very real and on sale in Nagano Prefecture, Japan.
It’s a senbei, which is a Japanese style of rice cracker, that in this instance, has had a bunch of wasps added to it for flavor or…health or something. We don’t know why exactly but we recently had the pleasure of sitting down with a bag of wasp crackers, only to find that they actually weren’t nearly as horrifying as you might expect.
They were only partially horrifying.
It was a sunny yet chilly day in Osaka when I arrived at my office to find a package waiting. It was from the RocketNews24 editorial department, and upon opening there was a note from the editors.
Intrigued, I dug further into the box’s contents. Inside were two bags of crackers with a hearty portion of little black wasps embedded throughout.
■ “Popular in Japan”
These crackers recently surfaced on the website 9GAG when someone posted a picture of one with the heading “So apparently this is quite popular in japan… I give you the nope-cake!”
The image triggered feelings of disgust and fear from all who saw it, either from the plentiful wasps inside the snack or filthy fingernail holding it.
“Oh fak, there’s a cookie among my bees.”
“Those are some big chocolate chips (I hope).”
“Enough food for today.”
“Japanese ppl…f#@ked up.”
“I thought that was Pikachu roadkill.”
It also elicited several of the commenters finest “nope” animated gifs.
As many other comments pointed out, these really were not at all famous in Japan. However, there are some pockets here and there around the country that have a custom of eating insect foods. The wasps used in these crackers (Vespula flaviceps or Kurosuzume bachi) are farmed in certain parts of central Japan for human consumption. Their larvae in particular is said to be eaten with rice.
■ Best served with a bucket
Thankfully, the wasps in my crackers didn’t look nearly as big as the ones in the 9GAG photo and my fingernails weren’t nearly as dirty. However, those were the only two silver linings in this assignment.
I decided to set my table with what I felt were the necessary tools. First, I made sure to have a bucket to puke in. Then I put out a plate and napkin, because I’m not a savage after all. Finally, I got a bottle of whiskey to make my brain stop yelling at me not to go through with this.
Normally I don’t encourage drinking at work, but when your job is eating wasps, it’s always Miller time.
The wasp crackers were sold in packs of two, which I think is almost obnoxiously presumptuous of the makers. Upon opening them up there was an unusual odor. It wasn’t really disgusting, but it wasn’t terribly appetizing either. The smell reminded me of the food I used to feed my pet tropical fish as a kid.
I stared at the crackers for a good few minutes just to make sure they weren’t going to suddenly reanimate like I kept envisioning they would. Then, I went in for a bite.
The sweet and slightly savory taste of the senbei cracker was firmly present and to be honest I could barely taste the wasps at all. Feeling more confident, I went in to a second bite, this time from a spot more densely packed with wasps.
This time I could get a better sense of their taste and texture. They were very much like raisins but had a slightly acidic and bitter taste to them. In other words, they tasted burnt, which I guess made sense since they were baked in a cracker.
However, I can’t say it was a bad taste. It certainly was a disgusting sensation to bite down on something round and squishy and know that it must have been either a head or an abdomen, and when a wing or a leg got stuck between my cheek and gums it wasn’t the best feeling in the world. But in the end, those were more just figments of my own squeamishness rather than anything truly disgusting about the wasps themselves.
Crackers filled with wasps aren’t that bad at all, but they aren’t very good either. Personally, I will probably never eat them again. However, I could absolutely see them as an acquired taste that some people could get into after eating a bag or ten. They’re probably really healthy, too, and full of protein and whatnot, but I’m in fairly good shape so I’ll pass.
And so I give wasp-filled crackers from Nagano Prefecture 19 stars out of 44 which means you can probably forgo the puke bucket and whiskey but it also probably won’t be love at first taste. If you want to try some you can order them from the Amazon link below where two bags of 12 sell for about 2,000 yen (US$17).
Wasp Crackers from: Alps no Sora Jibachi Senbei – Mount Takei Saburo Shoten (Amazon)
Source: 9GAG (English) via Yurukuyaru (Japanese), Mie University (English)
Photos: RocketNews24 unless otherwise noted
▼ Each two-pack of cookies comes with its own silica gel pack to keep it fresh. Be sure not to eat it though! That would be gross.