Curiously delightful curry bread

Yomiuri Shimbun photos, Courtesy of Kaldi Coffee Farm grocerie
Left: Cafe Margapane’s cube-shaped curry bread
Top right: A crispy toast sandwich with Kaldi Coffee Farm’s curry-flavored spread on top
Bottom right: Bonjour Bon’s curry bread with a beef fillet cutlet inside

More and more bakeries are diversifying the shapes and flavors of their curry bread offerings. Popular among people of all ages, the savory bread can be a handy meal for people spending more time at home during the pandemic.

A cube-shaped curry bread has proven popular at Cafe Margapane in a residential area in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward since its opening in 2019. A cheese-flavored variety (¥230) was added to the bakery cafe’s lineup in February last year. Inside the bread is a curry sauce made by blending four flavors of roux, mixed ground beef and pork, spices, red wine and two kinds of cheese. The cooled and hardened curry is wrapped in dough and rolled out before fermenting in a square mold. Baked in the oven, the dough rises to form a six-centimeter cube.

“Customers like the bread for its unusual shape and mellow flavors, and it’s easy to eat thanks to the additional cheese,” said Kunihito Kuramochi, president of the cafe’s operating company. About 100 of the mildly flavored cubes are sold per day.

At Bonjour Bon, which operates a bakery in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward and two other locations, the curry bread with a beef fillet cutlet inside has been popular among customers since it went on sale for ¥235 last August. The fillet cutlet inside is bite-size and less fatty than other cutlets, while still being quite filling.

“We made this bread based on the idea of turning cutlet curry into bread,” said an official of Bonjour Bon.

Although there have been fewer customers due to the pandemic, sales of the curry bread, along with sandwiches and other types of bread, have remained strong, the company said.

Especially in the past few years, bakers have been trying their hand at changing the conventional style of curry bread, such as by elongating it or placing the sauce and ingredients on top of the dough, according to Sayuri Miyawaki, executive director of the Japan Currypan Association in Kanagawa Prefecture.

A wide variety of ingredients — such as eggs, pork cutlets, vegetables and seafood — can be used, and they are often cooked in bigger pieces. Many bakeries and cafes are becoming more creative with the coating and dough they use, too.

“Curry bread is easy to eat and can be served for lunch or as a snack,” Miyawaki said. “Now that more varieties have become available, those that have been around and loved by the locals for a long time are also garnering attention.”

The association has been holding a “Currypan Grand Prix” contest since 2016 to discover popular products from all over the country. Bonjour Bon’s beef fillet cutlet curry bread won the gold medal in the variety category of last year’s contest.

More bakeries specializing in curry bread are also cropping up.

Giraffa, which offers only one type of curry bread for ¥350, opened in December near Kamakura Station in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. Instead of the usual breadcrumbs, Giraffa’s bread is cooked with a specially prepared coating. It serves only freshly fried ones with a crispy exterior.

House Foods Corp. opened a curry bread shop in Hankyu Department Store’s Umeda main store in Osaka City in 2018. With the idea of curry bread being “just like curry and rice,” the bread is prepared with ingredients such as large pieces of beef and potatoes. Several flavors are available in the shop, while frozen ones can be purchased online. More orders are coming in during the pandemic.

Camel Coffee Co., a Tokyo-based operator of Kaldi Coffee Farm groceries, began selling a curry spread for ¥306 in November. The spread makes it easy to prepare curry bread at home. Made from dried mashed potatoes among other ingredients, the curry-flavored spread gives the bread surface a crispy texture when toasted.

“Curry bread is easier to arrange than other types of savory bread in terms of flavoring, ingredients, spices and coating, so bakeries can create original ones,” said Chikako Katayama, a bread-baking researcher. “Curry bread is everyone’s favorite and one of the most popular items in bakeries. It looks like this trend will continue.”