Taste Test

Nagaraya, Nuts Incredible, Tiwi, and Tokyo San: Our Garlic Cracker Nut Taste Test

October 8, 2018

More isn’t always more, with a few exceptions—e.g. the use of a cracker coating to enrobe peanuts, resulting in the snack known as cracker nuts. Also called “Japanese peanuts” despite actually originating from Mexico (we’re confused too), these unique nibbles give you double the crunch (and when done right, double the fun), and may then be seasoned and flavored in various ways (garlic in particular being an all-time Filipino favorite). Of the brands on the local supermarket shelves, which fares the best?

Nagaraya

Go for Nagaraya for a potent dose of flavor and crunch. | PHP 31/160g

This cult classic of a brand (which—despite its Japanese-stylized branding—is surprisingly local) gives you the crunchiest cracker nuts of the lot, with a coating that’s thin but sturdy and satisfying to crunch on. The seasoning, which offers a clear punch of garlicky pungency, can feel overpoweringly salty on its own (take heed when licking your fingers)—but the potency lets it stand out against the slight sweetness of the coating and the nuts for a more balanced overall bite. Given the intensity of flavor and crunch, it can tire out the jaw and the tongue if you consume it as fast as you would popcorn; we feel satisfied savoring just 1-2 pieces in each mouthful (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Crunch: 5/5 | Saltiness: 4/5 | Garlic: 5/5

Nuts Incredible

Boy Bawang offers puffier cracker nuts that have a milder crunch and flavor, but are no less addictive. | PHP 19.80/100g

Hailing from the Boy Bawang brand of snacks, Nuts Incredible gives you large, puffy pieces that adorably resemble miniaturized pan de sal. The coating comes much lighter and airier, almost approaching kropek category, but retains a solid crunch that keeps your jaws stimulated. Surrounding each piece is a light sprinkling of seasoning that’s mild on the saltiness and subtle on the garlic, but carries a chicken bouillon-esque note that works well with the gentle sweetness of the coating and the peanuts. You get an overall sensation that’s satisfyingly crunchy but far lighter than the other brands, thus making it especially hard to stop at one handful.

Crunch: 3/5 | Saltiness: 3/5 | Garlic: 4/5

Tiwi

Tiwi’s cracker nuts are smaller and appear to have more coating, but have less of a garlicky taste. | PHP 22/160g

Tiwi’s version has the smallest size of pieces of the bunch, allowing you to pop in more pieces in one go. They employ a coating that’s on the thin side like Nagaraya, but which comes much less sturdy (thus being easier to bite), with a distinctive sweetish, wheat biscuit-y taste (we’d liken it to less-spiced, less-sugary graham crackers). Its seasoning on the especially mellow side with but a whisper of garlic that barely makes an impact; this does not work to its advantage, as we detect a slightly chemical note on the cracker and find some nuts to taste sour or burnt.

Crunch: 3/5 Saltiness: 2/5 Garlic: 2/5

Tokyo San

Tokyo San comes in bigger, puffier pieces, like Boy Bawang, but take on a more generally-savory (than specifically garlicky) flavor. | PHP 34.65/200g

Tokyo San’s cracker nuts are also on the large, rounded side like Nuts Incredible, resembling shrunken-down potatoes with its pale brown hue and occasional presence of spots. Though also on the thick side, the cracker coat is just a touch less puffy than Nuts Incredible, with a slightly sweet, toasted monay or Jacobina biscuit-like flavor. The seasoning isn’t particularly strong on the garlic, mostly carrying a generic savoriness with a mild onion-y zestiness and an MSG-laced umami toward the end (all the brands have MSG; here it’s especially detectable), but comes at a great mid-level of saltiness that balances out the sweeter interior.

Crunch: 3.5/5 | Saltiness: 3/5 | Garlic: 3.5/5

The Verdict: Nagaraya

It was especially tough for us to decide on a winner as we were torn between two brands on complete opposite ends of the spectrum: Nuts Incredible, for for its deceptively light but satisfying taste and texture that makes it hard to stop at one handful; and Nagaraya, for its in-your-face impactful garlic flavor and crunch. We retain our love for the former (the author admits to personally preferring its balanced approach) but ultimately give the award to Nagaraya, in that its distinctive style best exemplifies the kind of cracker nut Filipinos have come to know and love.

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes

Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.

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