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Ika Snacks: Why Are Squid Crackers So Good?

Devon Lord-MoncriefDevon Lord-Moncrief
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February 29, 2024
A squid cracker, one of many ika snacks.

Sometimes sweet or savory, with heavy notes of salt and umami, squid crackers are one of Japan’s most popular snacks. Squid snacks, or ika snacks, are small, crunchy snack foods that come in various shapes and styles (and are occasionally made from octopus).

Looking for a crunchy potato chip-style snack? Ika snacks come like that. Maybe looking for a larger treat with whole pieces of squid baked in? You can find those, too. While not for everyone, ika snacks are worth trying for seafood fans or the curious.

Who created the first squid cracker?

Squid crackers fall into the category of senbei, or snack crackers. Senbei were first introduced to Japan from China thousands of years ago during the Tang dynasty (618-907.) Senbei come in many flavors, shapes, sizes, and makes. Squid crackers are a very popular variety of senbei available throughout Japan. 

A squid cracker, one of many ika snacks on a platter.
Squid crackers are huge! Image via Shutterstock

While it is difficult to find the first manufacturer of squid snacks in Japan, Kasugai Snack Foods is a well-known and famous snack food manufacturer operating since 1923. Founded in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, Kasugai Snack Foods began selling consumers fruits, nuts, and peas. Today, Kasugai Snack Foods sells much more, including squid crackers.

What does an ika cracker taste like?

For those who enjoy eating squid, ika crackers are right up your alley. Ika crackers blend sweet, salty, and savory notes to create a unique but delicious snack. Ika crackers can look like regular crackers or can come in small puffs or crisps. 

A squid cracker in paper wrap.
It’s a popular snack at festivals! Image via Shutterstock

Regardless of their shape, most regular-flavored ika crackers taste generally the same. However, buying high-quality brands of ika crackers is essential as the main ingredient is seafood. This is because low-quality products can have an unpleasant smell and taste. 

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Where can I get squid crackers in Japan?

Squid crackers are available in nearly every supermarket and convenience store nationwide. Whether you’re shopping at a Don Quixote or popping into a Family Mart or Lawson’s, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find some ika snacks.

A brown squid cracker on a counter.
You can always find a squid imprint on these ika snacks! Image via Shutterstock

With tons of varieties and brands to choose from, you’ll be able to find just the kind you’re looking for. You can also get squid cracker at street vendors depending on your city and if any street festivals are happening. The following cities are some of Japan’s most prominent places best known for their excellent seafood snacks. 

Kamakura (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Take about four squids. Dredge them in a flour mixture. Put them on a flat-top grill and put them under a heavy press. Let them cook for about 10-15 minutes. Watch them get sliced to order and then wrapped in paper. These are how fresh squid crackers are made in a local ika snack shop in Kamakura.

A woman holding one of many ika snacks from Kamakura snacks.
Kamakura also has amazing squid snacks. Image via Shutterstock

Costing roughly 350 yen (roughly $2.50), the squid crackers you can buy in Kamakura are crispy, salty, and deliciously fresh. As Kamakura is one of Japan’s oldest cities, you’ll find plenty of unique places to visit and see as you snack on fresh squid crackers.

Mihama (Okinawa Prefecture)

An ika senbei from Mihama.
Okinawa also has squid snacks! Image via Shutterstock

Mihama is a city best known for its fishing. It is also located within Aichi Prefecture, where Kasugai Snack Foods was formed. With the bountiful coastlines and ports, Mihama is a great place to find fresh ika snacks. And if you’re hard-pressed for time and can only settle for some quick munching, there’s no shortage of freshly packaged ika snacks to crack open, too.

Hakodate (Hokkaido Prefecture)

Hakodate is one of Japan’s most famous cities known for its seafood. The first Japanese city to open its ports to foreign trade in 1854, Hakodate has become a significant city in Japan due to its abundance of seafood vendors, markets, and trade.

An ika senbei from Hakodate.
You can also find them in Hokkaido! Image via Shutterstock

This area is called “Squid City”; its residents come together every August to participate in the Hakodate Port Festival. If you’re wondering just how essential squids are to Hakodate, many people take to the streets to do the ika-odori (Squid Dance), where they wiggle through the streets in a fun celebration. The Hakodate Fish Market is a must-visit if you’re looking for the freshest and best squid snacks in Japan.

Why should I try ika snacks?

Love them or hate them, squid snacks are staples in Japan. The rich and integral history of fishing reaches back to Japan’s earliest days, and it’s only fitting that seafood has become such a popular snack food.

For many Westerners, eating seafood as an everyday snack, like potato chips or beef jerky, can be very off-putting, but it’s essential to understand and respect regional preferences. When made well, squid crackers are savory and delicious treats that can help curb hunger or satisfy a particular craving throughout the day.

Have you ever had ika snacks before? Did you have squid crackers or something else, like squid jerky? What did you think of it? Was it good or something you might pass on in the future? Please let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear about the fantastic snacks you had while in Japan.

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