When most people think of Japan, they think of a country of rice. While this is not incorrect, it isn’t the whole story…I come from a family that appreciates good bread and I can tell you that some of the best breads I’ve ever had were some that I ate in Japan. Japanese bakeries can be found everywhere, and many have the normal varieties of bread that people from Western countries are familiar with. However, odds are you will come across plenty of home-grown varieties of breads as well. Breads that are sometimes only available in Japan. I decided to take 6 of the top “uniquely Japanese” breads and introduce them to you.
The first Japanese bread to come into existence was the “anpan” (a sweet bun filled with red bean paste. “An”= sweet bean paste “pan”= bread). Anpan might be best known as being the bread that makes up beloved bread-cartoon hero, Anpanman‘s head (anpan in the shape of Anpanman’s face below).
But why was anpan the first Japanese bread to be made? The answer is in the “an.” An is a sweet bean paste that is present in nearly every Japanese sweet. Making an the main ingredient in this bread, was the key to getting bread to appeal to Japanese tastes. These red-bean buns were introduced in the late 1800s.
Melon bread is one of the most iconic Japanese breads (also one of the most caloric). This bread is created by wrapping a normal sweet bun in a cookie dough and then baking it. The result is a crispy, sugary exterior with soft bread inside. There are several theories as to why this bread is called “melon bread.” The first is that the crust looks cracked and patterned, like a melon. The second is that the original name was “merengue bread” and that the pronunciation was changed. The third is because sometimes a slight melon flavor is added to the bread. Whatever the reason, melon bread is pretty delicious. Sometimes you will see it looking a bit green. Fear not, the green is food dye and it is used in the attempt to make the bread look more like a melon. Melon bread was first reported being served at the end of the Meiji era and the end of World War 1.
Korone is another type of Japanese sweet bread that is essentially a brioche cone filled with chocolate cream. The name comes from the horn-like shape, which in French, is “corne.” Anime fans might know about this bread from Lucky Star.
The characters try to figure out what the correct way of eating it is.
If you ask a Japanese person, “What is the ultimate comfort food?”, you might be surprised to hear the answer you get. An overwhelming amount of people think that curry is the best/easiest/most comfortable go-to meal ever. Common ingredients in curry are potatoes, carrots and onions.
Curry bread is a fried bread filled with this Japanese curry. I tried to look up the origin of curry bread, but not unlike every other bread, the origin is highly disputed. Every restaurant that claims to have invented the iconic bread was in Tokyo and did it in around 1915-1930, so I am placing the origin around then. The Japanese take their curry bread so seriously that there is even a National Curry Bread Association. (only in Japanese, sorry. But if you can read it, you’ll see that they give national rankings and recommendations enough to fuel all your curry bread fantasies)
The first time I saw corokke pan or “croquette bread,” the sight was pretty hard to swallow. Corokke are potato croquettes, which is a carbohydrate (that has also been DEEP FRIED). Who was the genius who thought that they should put that between bread?? In a country with so many healthy foods, I believed that this was some terrible, terrible mistake. This was until I tried it. It is actually delicious (as predicted). I believe the presence of lettuce is a way that people try to justify eating, what is essentially, a fried potato sandwich.
Last on the list is another bread that is mind-boggling to me, in terms of carbohydrate on carbohydrate action. Yakisoba bread is literally a bun that has been filled with pan-fried noodles (“yakisoba”). It is a bread that is extremely cheap, and is a staple item for high-schoolers. I guess the low cost, high energy value of the yakisoba bread is what makes it a food for the youth.
…And that concludes my list for today. I hope you learned something, I know I did. If I got anything wrong or missed something that you think important, please contact me.
New types of breads are constantly being made in Japan, so I cannot wait for the future of this list!