Ingredients, dishes and drinks from Japan by Ad Blankestijn

Monday, January 30, 2012


Sweet bun filled with red bean paste (an). アンパン。A type of kashi-pan, sweet buns or buns with sweet fillings ("kashi" means "confectionery").

The original sweet Japanese bread, invented in 1875 by Kimura Yasubei, a samurai turned baker. The bakery, Kimuraya at the Ginza, still flourishes. Bread was considered as too sour for Japanese tastes, moreover rice was still going strong as staple food, so there was little space for a meal of ordinary bread on the Japanese menu.

Mr Kimura therefore decided to sell bread as a snack. As a filling he used sweet azuki-bean paste (an), after the analogy of manju buns. It became a great success and anpan is still popular. Kimuraya also makes other types of anpan, for example with the addition of sesame seed, or chestnuts. In the 1960s anpan became extra famous thanks to the manga Anpanman, about a hero with a head consisting of an anpan bun.

Filling bread with beans seems a strange idea, until you think about the British who eat white beans in tomato sauce on toast... The anpan bun on the photo was so richly filled with bean paste, that it formed almost a full meal...

Anpan (buns filled with sweet azuki-beans)


Saturday, January 28, 2012


Jam bread. ジャムパン。A type of kashi-pan, sweet buns or buns with sweet fillings ("kashi" means "confectionery").

Very simple: a bun filled with strawberry jam. First made in 1900 by Kimuraya on the Ginza. The original jam bread contained apricot jam (anzu). The bread is oval to distinguish it from the round anpan (buns filled with paste of azuki beans) also made at Kimuraya. Now various types of jam buns are available in convenience stores and supermarkets throughout Japan.



Friday, January 27, 2012


Curry bread. カレーパン. A type of sozai-pan, buns with savory fillings ("sozai" is the term for the side dishes eaten with rice). It is a good and delicious example of "Japanese-style" bread.

Curry is so popular in Japan that it is even used as a filling for buns. A spoonful of curry is wrapped in dough, breaded in panko (bread crumbs), and deep-fried. Perhaps the idea came from the Russian pirozhki (pirozhki are also popular in Japan, both in their original form and with non-regular Japanese-style fillings. The Sogo department store in Kobe, for example, sells nice "piroshiki" in its depachika).

Curry buns are everywhere, from convenience stores to supermarkets and - freshly made - in bakery stores.

Other types of sozai-pan are: pizza toast (pizza-tostu), croquette bread (korokke-pan), fried noodle bread (yakisoba-pan), and toasted baguette with mentaiko (mentaiko-furansu). Foreign types (also available in Japan) are for example, besides the above mentioned piroshiki: salteña, panino, hamburgers and hotdogs, while also the Chinese baozi is related.



Thursday, January 26, 2012


Melon bread, melon buns. メロンパン。A type of kashi-pan, sweet buns or buns with sweet fillings ("kashi" means "confectionery"). An example of "Japanese-style" bread. 

Melon buns are made from enriched dough covered in a thin layer of crisp cookie dough. The name comes from the fact that the top part of such round buns looks like the skin of a melon - the name has nothing to do with the taste - which is just generally sweet (that being said, there are some producers who give their melon-pan a melon flavor recently). The one below which I had on a train trip tasted buttery. The top was covered with sugar.

Other flavors also exist, and then the name "melon" may be dropped. The version with maple syrup is, for example, called "maple bread."



Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Wheat gluten.

"Fu", pure wheat gluten, originated as an ingredient of the Buddhist vegetarian kitchen (shojin-ryori), where it was served as a meat substitute. There are two types of Fu:
  1. Raw (nama-fu). Solid gluten is mixed with glutinous rice flour and steamed. Often a natural coloring is added, such as mugwort (yomogi). It is usually cut in interesting shapes, such as autumn leaves (momiji) - this is the type that is used in shojin-ryori. It is also used in traditional sweets (wagashi).
  2. Dry baked (yaki-fu). Baked into bread-like sticks. When these are cut, the yaki-fu looks like croutons. And that is how it is used, for example in miso-soup , sukiyaki or other one-pot dishes. This is the type available in supermarkets, for nama-fu one has to go to specialty shops (such as Fuka in the Nishiki Market in Kyoto).
Fu has a mild and pleasant flavor and is quite nutritious.



Monday, January 23, 2012


Mixed rice cooked in an individual pot of iron, clay or ceramic material. 釜飯

A form of mixed rice (takikomi gohan), rice cooked with various ingredients and seasoned with dashi and soy sauce. The difference is that an individual pot is used to cook each portion. These pots can be made of metal, clay or a ceramic material. ”Meshi" means "rice" and "kama" refers to the iron pot - in the past, large-sized kama were used to cook rice. These kama had a collar so that they could hang in the round opening above the cooking fire.

Kamameshi is more luxurious than ordinary mixed rice. A great variety of ingredients can be added to it - so much, that there are even restaurants serving only various types of kamameshi. Popular items are crab, chicken, shrimp, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms etc.

Created in the late 19th century in Asakusa, or, according to another explanation, after the Great Kanto Earthquake in order to feed the victims quickly and easily.

This dish is eaten piping hot and is a popular winter fare. The rice at the bottom of the pot may get slightly burned. This is called okoge and popular with children. Kamameshi is also often sold as ekiben (a station lunch box). There are also specialist restaurants called kamameshi-ya.


Monday, January 16, 2012


Steamed, round Chinese dumpling. シュウマイ。

Dim sum item (siu mai) that has been Japanified, like gyoza. Cups of thin wheat pastry with a filling are steamed. Fillings are manifold, from pork to shrimp, crab or even beef. Seasonings are onion, ginger, pepper, salt and soy sauce. Often eaten with mustard.