Some call them water crackers, Philadelphia crackers, or Trenton crackers, but they’re most commonly called oyster crackers.
Although Westminster Bakers Co. claims to have invented them as early as 1828, officially that record is from an 1847 listing for the Adam Exton Cracker Bakery. No matter what the correct answer is, they’re ever-so-slightly modeled after oysters, and started off as a popular topping for oyster stews.
To me, oyster crackers have always been reminiscent of being slightly less salty versions of Saltines.
But what if I told you that there’s a “leveled up” version of these so-called oyster crackers that actually contain the aphrodisiacal mollusk?
For a sample of those, you might have to go — or these days, find an awfully generous local — to grab you these snacks. Why?
Because they’re in Japan.
A random stop in Kurashiki, a pleasant little canal town known for its centuries-old rice warehouses, helped lead me to bicchu kurashiki Setouchian (in Japanese, 備中倉敷 瀬戸内庵). This particular store specialized in local gastronomy, and I must say they had some delicious offerings that you may never have expected to see; for instance, I remember going back for sample after sample of their orange butter and (famous in the region) peach butter.
I did end up buying a jar of the peach butter, but what struck my attention for a bit of Japanese food fusion was the oyster senbei:
Senbei (煎餅・せんべい) are rice crackers, local snack staples throughout much of the country. Many are flavored with sesame seeds, seaweed, and/or soy sauce. This one, however, had oysters BAKED IN, ostensibly from the nearby Setouchi Inlet.
It was an umami feast, but after a few of those, I needed something sweet.
So that’s where the peach butter came into play ….