Types of Bread in Japan (With Delicious Photos)

 Take a stroll down a street in a Japanese city, and more often than not, you’ll find yourself salivating from the whiff of freshly baked bread peeking at you from the insides of charming bakeries and cafeterias. Or maybe you have had moments of being fickle over which breads to buy while grocery shopping at a Japanese mart.

Perhaps you need a clearer picture of the different types of bread that can be found in Japan, and here are 5 classic options for you to consider for a quick snack or a filling meal.

Anpan bread

Credits: Honest Food Talks

This highly raved airy bread was invented in 1875 by Yasube Kimura, a samurai who eventually became a baker. He baked round bread rolls that he studded with poppy seeds or black sesame seeds. As he wanted the Japanese to develop a greater appreciation for Western bread during the Meiji Period, he stuffed the buns with sweet red bean paste. By being presented to the Meiji Emperor the following year, news started spreading through newspapers and word of mouth, eventually leading to galactic recognition of the brand names of Kimura’s bakery and its Anpan all over Japan. In fact, the day of the Anpan presentation to the emperor (on the 4th of April) is now known as Anpan Day.

Some Anpan varieties include fillings such as mashed chestnuts or sweet potatoes chestnuts, or even ingredients that complement the red bean paste well such as walnuts.

Katsu Sando

Credits: CafeKatsu @ Twitter

This dish constitutes two slices of white bread sandwiched with a piece of tonkatsu. Tonkatsu is a type of panko-crumbed pork cutlet that is flavored with tonkatsu sauce, which mainly contains vegetables and fruits such as prunes, dates, carrots, and celery. Similar to the yakisoba pan, the soft bread holds all of the spicy, zesty twangs of the sauce. The history of this bread can be traced back to the 1930s, in a tonkatsu shop in the hanamachi district where geishas usually worked and lived.

Apart from the usual tuck shops, be it bakeries or convenience stores, katsu sando is also found at train stations due to the ease of snacking on it during a train ride.

Hokkaido milk bread

Credits: Just One Cookbook

Also known as Shokupan, this bread is famous for its fluffier, more tender profile as compared to many other types of bread. This is due to the way it is prepared which involves the use of a roux called tangzhong. This Japanese technique involves quickly mixing a small percentage of the flour and water or milk in a yeast recipe, before combining the thick batter with the other ingredients.

Due to its mildly sweet taste, this bread goes along well with an endless list of spreads and toppings, be it sweet such as Nutella and jam, or savory such as cheese and scrambled eggs. You can also enjoy it as it is, savoring the pure outcome of the hours of kneading and mixing.

You do not have to look very far to find Shokupan as it is found in most bakeries, supermarkets, or convenience stores in Japan, served as sliced bread or as a whole loaf.

Melon pan bread

With a melon-like appearance, this bread is caked with a crunchy layer of sweet cookie dough crust to go along with its light texture. It comes as either circular or spindle-shaped. Additionally, it bears a visual similarity to the traditional pineapple buns from Hong Kong but it is lighter, more mellow in its buttery taste, and has a firmer exterior that does not flake, unlike the Hong Kong buns.

Although traditional melon pan has no melon or melon flavor, some stores color them green or inject some melon cream into the bread to further bold the ‘melon’ part of its name. You can find plenty of melon pan varieties such as those that sandwich thick slabs of indulgent ice cream!

Credits: L Hong to Rtai

In terms of its origins, there are several theories floating about the net. One example was that the melon pan was invented in 1910 after Japanese businessman Okura Kihachiro brought Armenian baker Sagoyan to Japan. In Japan, Sagoyan, who had formerly worked for the Romanovs and at the Imperial Hotel in Manchuria, was believed to make melon pan and base it on a French galette.

Yakisoba pan

Credits: MasterClass

This soft, white bun closely resembles a hot dog-style bun and is one of the hallmarks of Japanese convenience stores. It is believed to date back to the 1950s in Tokyo when a customer requested a combined order of yakisoba (stir-fried noodles) and koppepan (bread rolls).

This rather unorthodox pairing gradually whetted the appetites across Japan due to the harmony of flavors packed into the bun. The yakisoba typically spells sweet, umami, and tangy thanks to the use of condiments such as oyster sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Also, the buns are traditionally decked with ginger, mayonnaise, and nori seaweed for a greater depth of flavor.

Due to it being rather inexpensive yet hearty enough to satiate a hungry stomach, it is often consumed during lunch and tea breaks at school cafeterias in Japan. Talking about cafes, are you a fan of matcha? Kyoto is one of the best places to enjoy this traditional tea and its delicious desserts and we have a post on it. 

What is the importance of sushi in Japanese culture and how often do Japanese people eat it?  We will look into why sushi is such an important facet of Japanese culture, how often people typically eat it and what makes it so special.


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