Let’s learn more about this Japanese curry bread, the secret to its deliciousness, and some of the popular places to get it.
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Japanese curry bread (kare pan or カレーパン) is the ultimate deep-fried snack. This bread is a doughy, golden brown bun coated in panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and filled with savory and sweet Japanese-style curry made with a spicy combination of vegetables and meat.
While curry bread is a permanent feature at bakeries and convenience stores across Japan, a bakery called Cattlea has become well known for this popular dish, having maintained its classic ‘Original (Ganzo) Curry Bread’ recipe for 94 years. Legend has it that, in 1927, the owner of Cattlea decided to deep-fry Japanese curry, and in doing so, invented this curry snack as we know it.
The current iteration of this treat features a minced pork and onion filling, surrounded by the snack’s signature chewy yet crispy exterior. Located a one-minute walk from Morishita Station in Tokyo’s Kōtō-ku, Cattlea’s Original Curry Bread is deep-fried three times a day at 7am, 11am, and 3pm.
It is also said that Denmark Bakery, located in Nerima ward, invented curry bread in 1934. It is famous for its version of this mouthwatering snack, in which you will find a hard-boiled egg along with the tasty, spicy curry filling.
Tokyo is filled with bakeries celebrating this popular snack. The award-winning Boulangerie Seiji Asakura in Minato ward is known for its deep-fried curry breads topped with layers of cheese. Bistro Kirakutei in Setagaya ward has perfected two deliciously spicy options (one of which is hotter than the other). If you prefer an option that isn’t deep fried, the curry bread at Kinmugi, also in Minato ward, is baked instead.
Whether it’s FamilyMart, 7-Eleven, or Lawson, convenience stores stock a range of their own in-house curry breads in various shapes and sizes, and a variety of delicious fillings like traditional beef curry and soft-boiled eggs. Lawson even collaborated with Belgian chocolatier Godiva on a chocolate beef curry bread, where cocoa features not only in the dough, but also as added flavoring for the meat too.
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Not close to any of these spots right now? You can actually make your own curry buns at home thanks to the loads of great recipes to browse and try online. Most of these recipes only take an hour and 15 minutes to make about 8 servings (minus resting time of course).
First, choose a Japanese curry that you like most for your curry filling. Conveniently, curry bread is often made with leftover curry. Just make sure to have panko in your pantry, along with other staple ingredients used to make the dough, such as yeast, milk, eggs, bread flour, sugar, and vegetable oil.
When making curry bread at home, the final result should be crispy, chewy, and generously filled with your Japanese curry mixture or Japanese curry roux. Any curry will do, whether it’s centered around beef, chicken, pork, or vegetables.
Top tips from Just One Cookbook, created by Namiko Hirasawa Chen, include making sure to thin out the dough on the edges, never adding too much curry paste, and flipping the curry bread as soon as you place it in the oil.
The Curry Bread Grand Prix, which has been held every year since 2016, recently announced its list of 2021 finalists. Organized by the Japan Curry Bread Association, the annual awards sees the public vote for shortlisted bakeries throughout Japan by region.
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In 2020, more than 14,000 votes were cast. Gold award winners included curry breads from Peter Pan in Chiba Prefecture, Bakery Chopin in Aichi Prefecture, Penguin Bakery in Hokkaido Prefecture, and Pan Kobo Bakery in Osaka Prefecture. Another gold award winner included the striking Mount Fuji curry bread, made in the Shizuoka Prefecture in collaboration with a social welfare organization that assists people with disabilities.
The Mount Fuji curry bread, for which there is a long waiting list to order online, is more than a delicious savory snack. It is available in two unusual colors, namely blue and red. While the buns are both shaped like Mount Fuji, the blue version is topped with coconut flakes, and the red version consists of chili pepper-infused dough.
Curry bread is not only celebrated annually as part of the Curry Bread Grand Prix awards. According to SoraNews24, the eighth day of every month is also Curry Bread Day, making it the perfect opportunity to head out and grab a couple.
Japanese curry bread is also celebrated in the form of popular culture. Currypanman, from the Anpanman series, is a bun-like character filled with spicy yellow curry who is gifted with a range of curry-related powers, including the Curry-punch, Curry-kick, and Curry Spit.
Do you have a favorite curry bread flavor that you like to snack on? Or a bakery you think is worth recommending? Share your top picks in the comments!
Lindi is an editor and writer from Cape Town, South Africa who has worked in online publishing for more than 10 years. Lindi loves to travel, explore, and discover new things. Her top travel destination is Tokyo, where she most enjoys spending time walking along the river in Nakameguro and visiting her favorite Harajuku record store.
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