These dishes make white bread anything but boring

Hands tearing a Japanese shokupan bread

Photo: HarryKiiM Stock (Shutterstock)

Sliced ​​white bread is a category in its own right. Soft, supple and light in taste, it acts like a sponge for a dark and flavorful barbecue sauce; unites peanut butter and jelly in a holy marriage; and makes a damn good slice of toast. Yet white bread is rarely, if ever, the star of the show here in the United States, and in that way, it’s an outlier.

Most notable for the things it lacks, like color, white bread barely elicits the same excitement as dense, crusty bakery loaves. In many Asian countries, however, white bread has both a different context and connotation: rather than the insubstantial counterpoint to heartier and more sophisticated breads, white bread forms the basis of imposing and visually striking creations like Shibuya honey toast and Taiwanese coffin bread, while including everyday foods like buttered toast and convenience store sandwiches.

A brief history of white bread

The so-called Western-style bread – baked bread, rather than steamed or fried like baozi or Chinese mantou – arrived in Japan via Dutch and Portuguese trading ships that docked in the port city from Nagasaki in the 16th century (the word for bread in Japanese is an interpretation of the Portuguese word pao). Japanese bakers eventually developed their own style of bread called shokupan: literally “food bread”. Today, white bread-style bread is commonly found in many Asian countries, including Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

To open your eyes to the expansive wonders of the humble slice of bread, we’ve provided a brief overview of some of the most distinctive white bread dishes found throughout Asia, and how you can get them (or do them) yourself.

coffin bread

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coffin bread

Coffin bread, or guan cai ban, is a sinister-sounding but iconic Taiwanese night market dish consisting of an inch-thick slice of white bread that is fried, hollowed out, and filled with a fruit stew sea ​​bass and cream-based chicken, then topped with a toasted bread lid. He is said to have originated in the southern city of Tainan in the 1940s, according to sites like What to cook todaythe coffin bread is similar in construction to the South African bunny chow dishand is also often compared to American pie or soup in a bread bowl.

You will find a plethora of recipes online, including one of flavor, which involves brushing the bread with butter and baking it instead of frying it. If you’re not up for making coffin bread yourself, you may need to fly to Tainan, as there don’t seem to be many American restaurants that make it (but sure, let us know know if you find one).

Ogura toast with egg

Ogura Toast

Ogura toast is a Japanese breakfast originating from the southern city of Nagoya. Made with a few simple ingredients – a slice of shokupan (atsugiri, or extra thick cut) spread with butter or margarine, a dollop of ogura an (sweet red bean jam), and sometimes whipped cream – it’s a must-have from Japanese kissaten, or old-fashioned cafes, where it can be ordered as part of a “morning set” with coffee.

In the United States, you can order a ogura toast set At New York Davelle, a modern kissaten that also offers lunch and dinner options like chicken katsu curry and cod roe spaghetti. You can also buy canned ogura from your local retailer. Asian supermarket if you want to try making this toast at home.

Shibuya honey toast and matcha ice cream

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Shibuya Honey Toast

Also called brick toast or Shibuya toast, Shibuya honey toast consists of a chunky slice of toasted white bread, similar to coffin bread, that is hollowed out and stuffed with toppings like ice cream, fruit and grilled cubes of his own hollowed-out entrails. . The name refers to the bustling area of ​​Tokyo where the dish was invented, according to Gastro Obscure.

As popular in Taiwan as it is in Singapore, honey toast is one of a series of recent Japanese sweet dishes to gain a foothold in the United States: others include soufflé pancakes and taiyaki. An Instagram search for #honeytoast and #honeybricktoast pulls up hundreds of specimens of varying degrees of architectural excess, and you can order it from places like Grace Street Cafe in New York’s Koreatown and Oh my pan in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles. You can also try making it at home: recipes abound on blogs like Wands Chroniclesand on catering sites including Flavor and Food52.

Japanese milk bread or shokupan

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Milk bread

Grill it, stuff it, and brush it with whatever you want, but Asian-style milk bread also offers an ethereal dining experience. In Japanyou’ll find bakeries dedicated almost entirely to the perfect shokupan bread, and it’s on the menu at several Japanese- or Asian-inspired specialty bakeries, like Pastry Whisk in New York and Ariadne’s Belly in San Francisco.

These days, however, you can get a loaf of bread from almost any Japanese or Korean bakery, and from stores like Mitsuwa Market and H-Mart. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can try making it yourself: the New York Times and enjoy your food both offer recipes. Once you have a whole loaf to work on, you can make any of the dishes above, as well as everything from a pork katsu sandwich to a Japanese convenience store style egg salad sandwich, at the Los Angeles cafe Konbi. Alternatively, simply tear off the fluffy center and eat it like a small child would.

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