If you come from North America, Europe, Australia or many other countries that have bread as a staple food in their diet, you may be surprised when you arrive in Japan (or any other Asian country for that matter). Bread is something simple. Bread is something wonderful. Bread is something you may take for granted. If you ever plan to move to Asia, it will be something that you will eventually learn to appreciate in a new way!
Obviously, many, if not most Asian countries have rice as their staple food. For me, rice is good, but lacks in flavour. I feel this way, but my Japanese wife laughs and simply says that my palate isn't refined enough to know the difference between different types of rice (that is probably very true). This being a "rice culture" bread is something new. There isn't a long history of bread in this country. Even if it has been here for awhile, bread is consumed on a different way in Japan. Bread is by no means a staple food, it is a treat!
When you walk into a Japanese bakery, you will see many wonderful things. There are so many amazing paistries, cakes, muffins and very cool (if not downright weird) combinations of bread/food! Sausage and curry in a bun. Sweet potato and curry in a bun. Potato and mayonnaise in a bun. This of course goes on!
There are many wonderful types of baked product, but one thing you will soon realize, if you are a bread lover and long term resident of Japan, is that good loaves of bread are a rare thing. 95% of bread is white and lacking in taste (in my opinion). Rye bread, whole wheat bread, pumpernickle bread are almost impossible to find and if you do find them, will probably disappoint! The bread palate of Japanese people is very different than a Canadian such as myself! My wife always loves to say to me, "You come from a bread culture!" Maybe she is right!
If you plan to move to Japan and live here for more than a few years, there is a simple solution. Buy a bread maker, or "home bakery" as they are called in Japan.
We bought this bread maker last year at a major Wal-Mart-ish store called Izumiya. This machine cost about $150 and can make a loaf of bread in a few hours. It's a nifty contraption and we make bread five or six days a week! I realize that many people out there buy bread makers on a whim and use it a few times before it gets sent off to the "dust collecting" appliance corner of the room, but here in Japan, it is very necessary for me. I love bread and this is my means to an end!
It is pretty simple to use and only takes about five minutes to mix your bread ingredients together (flour, yeast, butter, salt and milk). One advantage to living in Kobe is that there are many "foreign food" stores here. While in Japanese supermarkets you can only buy processed and refined white flour, in the foreign food shops I can buy many more types. My wife and I tend to shop in a foreign food store in Sannomiya in the Santica shop area. There we can buy whole wheat, rye and graham flour. it is indeed more expensive than white flour, but for a Canuck like me, it's well worth it.
I still eat rice twice a day, but it is nice to have a piece of whole wheat toast for breakfast or some peanut butter on a peiece of graham and whole wheat toast for an evening snack!
Earlier in the week I made a video for You Tube about some of the "interesting" baked goods you can buy at a Japanese bakery. I featured a muffin that was made from two types of sweet potato. it was made from Murasaki Imo, a purple skinned sweet potato and a regular sweet potato.
This was a murasaki imo/satsuma imo (purple and regular sweet potato) muffin I bought at a bakery called Dans marche in Akashi Station in Akashi, Japan.
I also made a video about my PURPLE MUFFIN experience:
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