Mostly when people think about Japanese food it’s sushi or miso that springs to mind. One popular snack that probably won’t be pictured is kare pan – curry bread.
Essentially, this is a crunchy, coated deep-fried doughnut about the size of a bread roll, stuffed with curry. The filling – usually beef, chicken or lamb in curry sauce – is meaty, mild and flavourful. You might need to sit down to recover after eating one but it’s worth it, particularly as they only cost about £1.50 each.
You can find kare pan in bakeries around Japan, but specialist Toyofuku, in Tokyo’s entertainment district, Asakusa, claims to have been making its version, with prime cuts of wagyu beef and handmade panko breadcrumbs, for more than 100 years. Grab one from the takeaway around the corner from Shimokitazawa station, which is also an ideal place for people watching: the area is popular with trendy youngsters – partly because of its many shops selling vintage clothing.
And as if a curry-filled doughnut weren’t amazing enough in itself, kare pan also inspired one of Japan’s greatest anime and manga artists. Takashi Yanase, creator of the famous Anpanman (Bean Bun Boy) anime series, named one of his characters after this ball of doughy curried goodness. Karepanman’s special powers include the ability to squirt curry sauce from his head to burn his enemies to death.
• Find great kare pan in Tokyo at Toyofuku (2-3-4 Asakusa, Taito ), and Angelica Bakery (2-19-15, Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku)