A Real Oyster Cracker

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.

American oyster crackers
Westminster Baking Co. Oyster Crackers, Santa Barbara, California, United States

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:

oyster senbei cracker kurashiki japan
Bicchu Kurashiki Setouchian (牡蠣薄焼き煎餅 – 倉敷市、備中倉敷 瀬戸内庵), Oyster Senbei/Cracker, Kurashiki, Japan

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 ….

Istanbul’s Van Kahvaltı Evi, for Your All Day Turkish Breakfast Needs

You might know Turkey best for its döner kebabs, baklava, and dried fruit. But did you know that breakfast, called kahvaltı (kah-val-TUH) is the most important meal in Turkey?

In my experience, most Turkish hotels will offer some combination of raw vegetables, breads, cheeses, cold cuts, and sweet spreads like honey and jam. Everything tastes fresh, there’s variety, even at the most humble of lodgings, and you can be sure that tea comes a flowin’.

turkish breakfast Van Kahvalti Evi
Delicious Eastern Anatolian Sampler Platter at Van Kahvalti Evi, Istanbul, Turkey

However, if you’ve just got a short stay in Istanbul — even a long layover — why not check out Van Kahvaltı Evi for a primer on Turkish breakfast and hospitality? They’ve got two branches, the main one in Cihangir, near Taksim, and another in Nişantaşı, both on the European side of Istanbul.

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