Those with a penchant for savory snacks will love the offerings available in Japan. Whether you’re a fan of crunchy thick cut potato chips doused in seasoning or you prefer a light and airy rice-based cracker, it’s likely you’ll find your new favorite among these spicy Japanese snacks.
What Do Spicy Japanese Snacks Taste Like?
First, it’s worth asking an important question: Is spicy food all that popular in Japan? You might be surprised to learn that the Japanese aren’t actually huge fans of heat in their food, despite much of Asian cuisine being well known for its liberal use of chili in many dishes.
That said, spice and heat is still present in Japanese dishes and snacks, and there are lots of ingredients with a certain kick to them – particularly via the use of an additional condiment, which succeeds in not overpowering the overall dish. Rayu, or ‘la-yu’, is Japan’s answer to chili oil, incorporating ginger, sesame and Sichuan chili to create a perfect dip for gyoza and ramen. Then there’s shichimi togarashi, also known as ‘Japanese Seven Spice’. This blend of different spices includes ground chili flakes and sansho pepper alongside citrus peel, sesame seeds and nori flakes, creating a deliciously spicy seasoning that’s often sprinkled onto ramen, soba noodles, soups and meat dishes.
Of course, spice doesn’t just stem from chili. There are plenty of different spice sources that grace the surface of these snacks – everything from the enticing tingle of wasabi paste (made from horseradish) and the pungent kick of black pepper to the mellow aroma of curry powder or the less well known karashi (Japanese mustard) or sansho (Japanese pepper).
Things don’t have to be super spicy either. Lots of spicy Japanese snacks have a lovely and subtle bite to them. Condiments like sesame, soy sauce, mirin and miso are also used liberally to create a wonderfully complex flavor that highlights and elevates spice.
What Kind of Spicy Japanese Snacks Are There?
Japan has a vast array of snack types: Everything from rice cakes and mixed nuts to potato sticks and lotus root chips. You can get lost in the variety of different types of rice crackers, indulge with a handful of roasted soybeans, or snack on a combination of crackers and nuts. The cooking style varies too: baked, deep fried or roasted.
As snack flavors are often cyclical throughout the year in Japan, you may come across a week or month where seemingly everything on the shelves is spicy, making it the perfect time to stock up on your favorite brands.
We’ve put together a guide to some of the most popular spicy Japanese snacks types around – many of which just so happen to be available at Bokksu Boutique too.
Koikeya Karamucho Spicy Chips
Widely known as the most popular spicy snack in Japan, Karamucho potato chips were originally introduced to the Japanese in 1984 by the famous Koikeya brand and have been adored ever since. These spicy Japanese chips are thick cut for an extra crunch and feature a blend of spices that are wonderfully nuanced.
Onigiri Senbei Wasabi Rice Crackers
Enjoy the fresh kick of wasabi with every bite of these super sized wasabi senbei rice crackers. A dousing of thick powder with a soy sauce glaze makes them incredibly moreish – but be forewarned, as the heat builds up slowly but surely!
Wasabeef Wasabi Chips
These wasabi potato chips are wonderfully spiced thanks to the Nagano-grown wasabi that’s used in their seasoning. The chips themselves are cut just thick enough to provide a satisfying crunch too.
Kamado Okoge Black Pepper Cracker
Enjoy this beautifully flavored senbei rice cracker that uses black pepper to fire up your tastebuds. There’s also a deliciously unexpected smokiness to these crackers because of the way they’re prepared.
Shima Togarashi Rice Crackers and Peanuts
A variety of shapes and textures hits your senses within this mix of rice crackers and peanuts – and the infusion of spicy Okinawan chili peppers (otherwise known as Shima Togarashi (島唐辛子) which we’ve explored earlier in this article) add a distinct aroma and flavor of heat.
Hokkaido Potato Chips
The world renowned Hokkaido potato takes center stage with these spicy stew flavored chips, which are cut into tiny sticks reminiscent of nori seaweed strips for extra enjoyment.
Kuchidokekoji Sakumaro Curry Chips
The addition of turmeric and curry powder makes these puffed corn snacks delightfully tasty. There’s just a hint of spice along with a slight sweetness too, and the snacks themselves are light and airy with a crisp exterior that effortlessly melt in the mouth.
Aerial Spicy Garlic Corn Snacks
Aerial corn snacks are wonderfully complex: Each bite-sized piece is made up of four stacked layers to create a pillow-like consistency, before being coated in garlic powder and plenty of chili pepper to create a tasty kick for your tastebuds.
Tohato Bokun Habanero Chips
For a seriously spicy experience, the Bokun Habanero chips are your best bet. These ring-shaped potato chips come complete with a devilish chili pepper mascot on the packaging and have a light and airy texture that pairs wonderfully with the intense spice taste. These snacks are perfectly paired with a crisp, cold beer – if you can handle the heat, of course.
If reading about spicy Japanese snacks has made you just a little peckish, why not try Bokksu's Japanese subscription box? Each month you’ll receive a curated collection of the best Japanese snacks sourced directly from local snack makers from Japan.