Cost: 147 yen
Found at: Family Mart
Spring has come to Japan with the celebration of the Setsubun festival on February 3rd. This festival is part of the Lunar New Year and involves throwing roasted soybeans beans at the head of the household, who is dressed up as an oni – a Japanese demon. Symbolically, this festival is meant to drive away bad luck and bring in good luck. In practice, it involves running after demon dad and pelting him with roasted soybeans.
At the elementary school, we celebrated the holiday during recess. All the children got a cup of beans which they kept variously in little wooden boxes, origami containers, or whatever they had conveniently at hand to store their beans. Beans in hand, they rushed out onto the field where several PTA dads and a few male teachers were dressed up as demons, in curly black wigs, pointy horns, and demon-colored spandex. For 15 minutes, beans were flying, children were screaming and giggling, and the demon dads fled from hordes of first graders with bad aim and evil intent. Some students happily munched on beans in the corner of the yard, some pelted their friends, some came up to the empty-handed English teachers and thrust beans into our hands only to return a few minutes later, bean-less and demanding reciprocity. By the time the bell rang, the field was a legume battleground, crushed beans scattered across the muddy dirt, churned up by the stampede. As the children filed back into the school, teachers stood at the doorways to confiscate the remaining beans, and a swathe of second-graders huddled just outside the teachers’ line of sight, desperately stuffing the last of their beans into their mouths.
And it was during Setsubun, munching on beans that I later realized had been passed through the germy hands of dozens of children, that I realized something about roasted soybeans: they taste almost like peanut butter. And if there is one thing on earth that I love above all other things, it is peanut butter. So, I take back what I said about roasted soy-bean flour. I was ambivalent before but Lunar New Year, Lunar New me: and the new me cautiously accepts soybean flour as a dessert ingredient. And for the full unadulterated experience of roasted soybeans, this is the snack. They are whole, roasted soybeans, wrapped in a crunchy layer of soy-bean flavored biscuit, and then wrapped in a second layer of sugar and roasted soybean flour. This is the soybean triple threat and it tastes almost like a peanut-butter Reeses-puffs. That is to say, they are delicious.