パン pan—bread

Bread is really good in Japan. Not the stuff you get in supermarkets; that’s awful. Bakery bread is where it’s at. Even small bakeries do an incredible range, including freshly-baked French-style baguettes and bâtards (best I’ve found anywhere outside France), pizzas, white loaves, doughnuts, a Breton cake called kouign-amann, and Japanese inventions such as curry bread (much nicer than it sounds!)

This is our local bakery, Pan-de-Bell:

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We usually walk there on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The dogs wait outside while we go in and buy our breakfast.

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Just inside the door, you pick up a tray and a tongs.

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And make your selection from the huge variety on offer. Prices vary between around 1 and 2 euro for these pastries.

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The bakery often has seasonal specialties. For example, when I took this photo in October, they were advertising autumn specialties such as anpan with chestnuts, anpan with pumpkin, soft bread with cod roe, and danish with sweet potato, pumpkin and chestnuts. Japanese food culture is very seasonal!

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Earlier, in September, they were selling these tsukimi denisshu (moon-viewing danish). There is a tradition in Japan of going out to view the harvest moon (the full moon in September), and the bakers came up with the idea of putting full-moon-like dango on a danish pastry for the occasion.

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Here’s the Christmas display at the Hankyuu department store bakery last week. On the left and middle of the picture is Stollen (German cake) and on the right is panettone (Italian Christmas cake). Behind the panettone is another German festive treat, Lebkuchen.

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One thing you can’t get in Japan is traditional Irish-style bread. Even ingredients such as stone-ground flour or buttermilk are not readily available. So on a recent trip to Ireland I bought some packets of Odlums Quick mix to bring to Japan. It’s great to have the smell of freshly-baked bread wafting through the house!DSCN4754

Note on the word of the day:

The Japanese word for bread, pan, is borrowed from Portuguese pão. This is a very early borrowing dating back to the time of the first European contacts with the Portuguese and the Dutch in the 15th and 16th centuries. Other words borrowed from Portuguese at this time include botan (button), arukooru (alcohol) and tabako (tobacco).

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6 thoughts on “パン pan—bread

  1. Brilliant. And quite a co-incidence too… Lately I have been watching an anime called Clannad based on a popular visual novel by Key with the same name. I had just watched the last episode before reading your new blog. Called Clannad from the irish for family (apparently), has bits of irish folk music sprinkled about some episodes and the lead female lives with her parents and they run a bakery. Several story points are set in the bakery. Like I said, quite a co-incidence.

    1. Interesting, and worth noting that Enya is very popular here. It’s very likely that the author became aware that Enya was formerly in a group called Clannad, and that the word means “family”.

      As you say, quite a coincidence indeed!

    1. It amazes me. Even the smallest bakeries, usually run by an elderly couple, turn out literally dozens of types of product every day.

      One other thing I just remembered: a lot of bakeries have a clock showing what time popular items will be available each day. So for example if you want a baguette you should go there at 10:30, that kind of thing.

  2. I miss Japanese bread so badly. The sheer variety one bakery can carry is astounding.
    Though Irish bread looks delicious as well! Is there a name for that particular type of bread in the last photo?

    1. That one is called “Hearty Cracked Wheat bread”. I also got “quick mix” packs for various kinds of crusty wholemeal bread. That’s the main kind you can’t get here, and is probably too dense for Japanese tastes.

      I’m worried about facing a bread-free few days; all the local bakeries are closed until the 5th or 6th! The department store bakeries might be open though…

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