With a savory curry filling, a chewy, springy texture, and a light coating of crispy panko, Japanese Curry Bread – or Kare Pan – is the star of pastries at Japanese bakery shops. If you are a huge fan of Japanese curry, you have to make this insanely delicious bread bun at home.
Kare Pan (カレーパン), or Japanese Curry Bread, is one of the most popular savory pastries at Japanese bakeries, along with Yakisoba Pan. There’s nothing more satisfactory than biting into a warm, crispy, and chewy bread that reveals mildly spiced Japanese curry inside, like a passageway to pure happiness. I know you’ll be obsessed with this homemade curry bread once you make it.
What is Curry Bread (Kare Pan)?
Curry bread (kare pan) is Japanese curry encased in bread dough, lightly covered in panko bread crumbs, and then deep-fried till golden brown. Justifiably qualified as comfort food, you can find these curry bread at bakeries and convenience stores throughout Japan. They are enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or snack, or any time of the day in my case.
Mr. JOC won’t leave a bakery shop in Japan without purchasing curry bread, and he’s always searching for the best one. I asked what is considered the best curry bread, and he said:
- The outside crust should be crispy when you bite into it.
- The bread should be chewy but not too thick.
- It shouldn’t be oily even though it’s been deep-fried.
- A good amount of curry should be filled throughout the bread.
As you can see, I have a tough customer at home. Since I welcomed a good challenge, I took it up as an encouragement to develop a good recipe!
There’s nothing fancy about the homemade curry bread. They are just downright tasty. Although it can be time-consuming, it’s totally worth the effort and time because you’d be rewarded with the tastiest bread. The triumph feeling is worth celebrating. I’d make this bread at least every quarter of the year!
The Japanese Curry Filling
The best part about making your own curry bread at home is that you can stuff the bread with your favorite, delicious curry! Plus it’s the perfect way to use up one big batch of Japanese curry. You will only need about 1 1/2 cup worth of leftover curry. It has to be chilled, so leftover curry from the previous night makes the most sense for this recipe.
You can make Japanese curry with any ingredients you like. I used my Japanese Chicken Curry recipe for my curry bread. You can use other types of meats as well.
The curry next day should be in a thick paste form as you will be bundling up the curry filling in bread dough. Soupy curry is a no-no. Once you refrigerate your curry, it will solidify and easier to handle. Just take out the curry when you start making the bread, so it reaches room temperature by the time you fold it up in the dough.
3 Important Tips I learned from Making Curry Bread (Kare Pan)
1. Thin out the dough only at the edge
I learned from my experience that I enjoy the curry bread more when the dough has some chewy texture. Initially, I thought I prefer thinner bread because it has a nice crispy texture. But when I tasted the chewy and springy bread, I knew the whole curry bread experience got elevated.
To achieve this, it’s important not to roll out the dough too thin. The best way is to thin out only the edges of the round dough with fingers, keeping the center thicker. So when you fold and pinch the edges, the seam won’t be too thick and doughy, and the bread has even thickness throughout.
2. Never ever overfill the curry paste
I’ve made this mistake and learned the hard way. When you place the curry filling on a round sheet of dough, make sure you have PLENTY of space around it so you can pinch the dough easily and tightly. You don’t want to overfill because if the curry touches the edge of the dough even a little bit, the pinched dough may pop open and the curry filling will fall out easily during the proofing and deep-frying stages.
If you accidentally made the mistake, here’s what you can do.
a) If the pinched dough opened up before deep-frying, you can toast the panko first until golden brown, then bake the bread at 375 ºF (190 ºC). This is the same technique as my Baked Tonkatsu/Chicken Katsu recipes.
b) If the dough opened up during deep-frying, you want to immediately stop deep frying, instead gently remove the bread dough from the oil, pop them straight into the oven at 375 ºF (190 ºC) and bake until golden brown.
3. Flip the bread as soon as you place it in the oil
During the second proofing stage, the sealed side is on the bottom, and the dough is rising up. Now when you deep fry, you will again place the sealed side down first. As deep-frying starts, the dough continues to rise from the bottom (seam side), and it tends to rise way too much, creating a cave inside the bread.
My high school friend Takafumi who used to work at a bakery in Japan shared a pro tip with me when I was struggling with this. He told me that you will need to flip the bread a couple of seconds after you place the dough in the oil, stopping the dough to rise in the same direction. This actually works magically! No more big cave in the bread!
Now that I’ve perfected my Kare Pan recipe, Mr. JOC no longer has to go out his way to hunt down the best curry bread because the best is always the homemade type. Are you ready for your Japanese curry bread mastery? Let’s get started!
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- 1 ¼ cup bread flour (I calculate 1 cup = 120 g for bread flour; if you use a measuring cup, fluff your flour with a spoon, sprinkle it into your measuring cup, and use a knife to level it off. Otherwise, your flour ends up with more than 120 g. )
- ⅓ cup cake flour (⅓ cup + 1 Tbsp to be precise)
- 1 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- 1 Tbsp sugar (1 Tbsp + ½ tsp)
- 1 tsp instant yeast (1 tsp; see Notes if you use ACTIVE dry yeast)
- ½ cup whole milk (½ cup + 1 tsp; I highly recommend using whole milk instead of non-fat or reduced-fat milk.)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (should be a bit less than 1 Tbsp; 1 Tbsp butter is 14 g but you will need 10 g)
- 1 ½ cup Japanese curry of your choice (at room temperature, made previous night kept in the fridge overnight. Here are recipes for Beef Curry, Chicken Curry, and Instant Pot Curry)
- 1 large egg (50 g w/o shell) (for coating the bread; I forgot to put in the ingredient picture below)
- 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 4 cups neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc)
- Gather all the ingredients. Leave the unsalted butter and Japanese curry at room temperature.
To make the dough:
- In a large bowl, whisk together bread flour (150 g), cake flour (50 g), kosher salt (3 g), and sugar (15 g).
- Microwave the milk (125 ml) until warm to the touch, about 95ºF/35ºC. Then add in the instant dry yeast (3 g) and the warm milk.
- Using the silicone spatula, combine the wet and dry ingredients together until it becomes a rough dough. [1-2 minutes]
- Once the dough becomes a ball, add the unsalted butter (10 g) in the center of the dough and combine well until the butter is incorporated into the dough. At first, the dough will be sticky, wet, and oily and you might want to add more flour, but wait and try kneading a little longer. [2-3 minutes]
- Once you don’t see any big chunks of butter, transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and pliable. Read the tip on kneading below. [5 minutes]
- Tip on kneading: Using the lower part of your palm, push out the dough. Then roll back up as if you’re drawing the number “8” with your hand. Rotate the dough 90 degrees every time you finish drawing “8”.
- After drawing “8” a few times, bang the dough onto the work surface and fold it over away from you. This helps develop gluten (elasticity). Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat drawing “8” again. Continue this process until the dough is smooth, supple, and silky.
- When the dough is moist, smooth, and pliable, form a ball. Place the seam side down on the working surface and twist the ball a few times to close the seam.
- Place the dough back into the bowl, seam side down, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at 100ºF (38ºC) for 60 minutes, or until doubled in size (I used proof setting in my oven).
- Dust your finger with flour and poke the center of the dough. If the dough doesn’t close up, it’s ready.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and gently punch/press it down.
- Fold the dough into thirds widthwise.
- Fold the dough into thirds lengthwise.
- Turn upside down so the seam is facing down. Twist the dough to form a nice ball shape.
- Measure the weight of the dough on a kitchen scale and divide the number by 8. Roughly cut the dough into 8 pieces.
- Weigh each piece of dough and cut off the extra dough if it weighs more than you calculated.
- Add the extra dough to the smaller dough piece(s). Hide the extra dough in the center of the small dough by pulling the dough from the side.
- Twist the dough to seal the seam on your hand. Place the 8 dough balls on the baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper). Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes at room temperature.
To form the curry bread:
- Place the dough seam side up and flatten out each piece with your hand. Fold in thirds widthwise.
- Fold in thirds lengthwise, and then turn it upside down so the seam side is on the bottom.
- Flatten again, and flip so the seam side is up.
- Roll out into a 3.5 inch (9 cm) circle using a rolling pin.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. One by one, thin out the edges of the dough with your fingers, with the center thicker than the edges. The circle should be 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.
- Place the dough seam side up and put 1 to 1.5 Tbsp of curry paste in the center of the circle. Gather the opposing edges of the circle and fold the dough in half. Remember, KEEP THE CURRY OUT from the edges! It’s the most crucial part. If you didn’t read my post, read my tip #2 now in the post!
- Tightly pinch the edges to seal well. If the edges are not pinched and pressed tightly, the seam might open up during proofing/deep frying.
- Next, to double secure, fold the edges over to one side at least once, like folding a brown lunch bag. Press the edges again to secure.
- Keeping the seam side on the bottom, put the bread back onto the silicone mat and cover with a damp towel while working on the rest of the dough.
- Once all the dough has curry filling, crack the egg into a bowl and whisk well. Place the panko in a shallow bowl/tray. Using a pastry brush, coat the formed dough with egg and then panko.
- Cover the bread with plastic wrap and let rise at 100ºF (38ºC) for 45-60 minutes or until 1.5 times its size (I used proof setting in my oven). If you touch the dough with your finger, the indentation will stay on the dough.
To deep fry the bread:
- In a deep frying pot (I like using my 2.75QT Staub), heat the 4 cups (960 ml) oil to 320ºF (160ºC). Place 2-3 pieces of the curry bread into the oil, seam side down. After a few seconds, flip it around so the seam side is now up. You may need to hold it with a pair of tongs. Keep turning them while they deep fry, until they cook to a golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Drain the oil well and transfer to the wire rack or some paper towels to drain while it cools. Serve hot or at room temperature.
- Keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 3-4 weeks. To reheat, bake at 350ºF (177ºC) until warm inside.
- Prepare 1 cup all-purpose flour in the bowl.
- Remove 2 Tbsp from the bowl.
- Add 2 Tbsp corn starch back to the bowl.
- Now you have 1 cup of cake flour.
- Be sure to sift the flour to distribute the cornstarch well before using it in your cake batter.