The Japanese snack that's actually Mexican

A brief history of cacahuates Japonéses

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Cacahuates Japonéses

Credit: SnappyGoat

The basics

“Cacahuates japonéses” translates to Japanese peanuts. So…these are peanuts. Coated with a shell made with flour and a bit of soy sauce.

Find it in

Mexico

The intel

The origins of some snacks are lost to history, but Japanese peanuts have a clear lineage: they were created by Yoshigei Nakatani, a Japanese immigrant living in Mexico City, around 1945.

Nakatani had worked in a candy factory in Hyogo Prefecture prior to moving to Manzanillo, Mexico in 1932, at the age of 22, to work for a wealthy department-store owner named Heijiro Kato. In Mexico, Nakatani fell in love with a woman named Emma Ávila and the two started a family. But after the United States entered World War II, the Mexican government followed the lead of its northern neighbor and forced Japanese immigrants and their families living near the Pacific coast or the USA border to move to interior areas; most, including the Nakatanis, went to Mexico City. The government also forcibly closed many Japanese businesses, including Kato’s stores, leaving Yoshigei Nakatani jobless.

Needing income to provide for his family, Nakatani started making candy again, setting up a shop in La Merced Market just outside the city center. He made traditional Mexican candies first, and then tried to come up with something new, something that spoke to his roots in Hyogo Prefecture. The result was a coated peanut, crunchy and salty, and with a signature soy sauce flavor. It was an instant hit, and customers stood in long lines for what they started calling “Japanese peanuts.”

The Nakatanis soon had a thriving family business—the five children helped make, bag, and market the product—and eventually added more products, including enchilada and chamoy flavored peanuts. They also acquired lots of competitors, with many brands of Japanese peanuts available today; together, they sell more than 20,000 tons every year.

Get it here

Your local store in Mexico or online at Nuts.com, where you can buy twenty-four pounds for a mere $78.96 (or one pound for $5.99).

Will you like it? 

Probably!

Read more

Discover Nikkei: “Japanese Peanuts, a Legacy of the Nakatani Family”

Hazlitt: “Mexico: Land of the Japanese Peanut”

The Nakatanis’ son Carlos was a prominent artist best known for his paintings, which drew on his Japanese and Mexican backgrounds.

Coming soon

If you like this, subscribe to get three snacks every week! A few coming attractions:

  • The snack that tells the time (Uganda)

  • The snack that world leaders ate together (China)

  • The snack that went into space (USA/THE COSMOS)

  • The snack from the mango monks (Philippines)

  • The snack that comes with a safety warning (Australia)

  • The snack that comes with a risqué message (Portugal)

  • The snack that’s “like wool” but way tastier (Iran)

  • The snack that involves no actual rabbits (South Africa)

  • The snack that cooks in salt and sun (Egypt)

  • The snack that gets you through Arctic winters (Norway)

Happy snacking!