As the name suggests, Nure Jaga are ‘moist’, evidently inspired by Nure Senbei, a chewy rice cracker invented by Yuji Yokoyama, owner of Kashiwaya, a confectionery shop in Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, in 1960.
Nure Senbei are made by submerging non-glutinous rice dough in soy sauce after baking while it is still hot, resulting in a soft, chewy texture.
Initially regarded by consumers as ‘damp’ and off-putting, the crackers’ popularity soon soared, becoming the ‘go to’ afternoon accompaniment to green tea since commercialisation in 1963. Nuresen is a registered trademark of Kashiwaya, but the concept has been adopted by a number of manufacturers across the country.
A strong soy overtone is prevalent the moment a pack of Calbee’s Nure Jaga (literally translated as ‘wet potato’) is opened, and the chips are sticky to the touch. They look like a traditional potato chip, and are reportedly ‘soft and juicy’ with a slight crispy bite.
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Tokyo-headquartered Calbee, Inc. was founded in post-nuclear Hiroshima in 1949 and has grown into a global giant with operations in the US, UK, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and Spain, and Thailand. Malnutrition was rife after the Japanese city was destroyed by the atomic bomb, prompting founder Takashi Matsuo to create caramels enriched with calcium and B1 (the name Calbee combines the first three letters of nutrients).
The founder’s mission to ‘contribute to society by providing sweets that bring fun and good health to people’ remains at the company’s heart today, evident in its basket of better-for-you snacks, which includes Kappa Ebisen shrimp chips, Jagarico ‘snack-in-a-cup’, Saya-endo snow pea crisps and Pizza Potato Chips (made with the company’s unique melt flak” tech to give them an authentic melted cheese taste). Calbee’s Frugra (fruit and granola) today is the bestselling breakfast cereal product among health-conscious Japanese, especially the younger set.