Updated: Jun 29
I've always loved Japanese curry and how savoury and rich it is. I've enjoyed my fair share of Japanese curry, lots of it actually, and in different forms. I love it the classic way with some steamed rice, in the form of curry udon, omurice curry, and this version, which is as a filling for bread! I remember trying Kare Pan or Curry Bread Buns years back during a trip to Japan when I still wasn't vegan and fell in love.
Check out the recipe video on how to make this below:
I found these in many different parts of Japan. From 7/11 outlets in Tokyo to small bakeries in Kyoto.
They all had slightly different takes on kare pan, but one thing remained the same: there was a crispy coating of bread crumbs. The bread itself was really so crisp on the outside but with a good chewy bite on the inside, followed by a deliciously rich and savoury curry.
For the filling, I used my favourite vegan Japanese curry cubes and added in some potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and onions. It's totally up to you what you want to mix in (you can also add in some mushrooms or tofu!) but I love a simple veggie mix.
You'll find the full recipe below!
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Japanese Curry Bread Buns (Kare Pan)
Makes 8 bread buns
Crispy on the outside with a light and chewy dough on the inside! Filled with satisfying savoury Japanese curry with potatoes, carrots, onions, and bell peppers—but you can get creative with your veggies (or even tofu) of choice! These are usually cooked by frying to a golden brown crisp, but can also be baked!
1 cup (155g) bread flour
1/4 cup (40g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (9g) corn starch
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp instant dry yeast
1/2 cup warm soy milk or other non-dairy milk
1 tbsp neutral oil (sunflower, canola, vegetable, etc.)
1 1/2 cup cooled japanese curry for filling (recipe follows)
2 cups diced potatoes*
1 cup diced carrots*
1 onion, diced*
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cups water, or more depending on desired consistency
70-80 g vegan Japanese curry cubes (make sure they don't contain any animal-derived ingredients), adjust depending on desired thickness and richness
Neutral oil, for cooking
*Note: I sliced my potatoes and carrots into small 0.5” cubes. You can also opt to use other vegetables of choice and even add in some tofu and mushrooms if you’d like!
‘Egg wash’ and coating
2 tbsp room temperature soy milk mixed with 1/2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 to 3/4 cup japanese or panko bread crumbs, or more as needed for coating
Cooking the Curry:
Heat a large pan or pot over medium high. Add some oil. Once hot, add in the onions and sauté until tender. Place the bell peppers and cook for a few minutes. Add in the carrots and potatoes. Pour in the water and the curry cubes.
Mix well and then cover to leave to a boil. Mix every 5 minutes or so. The sauce will slowly start to thicken. You’ll want a thick sauce for the filling so you can set aside some to cool. For the rest, you can opt to water it down and enjoy with some rice and Crispy Tofu Katsu.
Leave the curry to cool. I refrigerated mine overnight for a really thick consistency to use as filling for the buns.
Making the Dough:
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. While mixing, add in the warm milk. Mix until you have small pieces of dough and then feel free to mix with your hands to well combine. Add in the oil and them mix well. Keep kneading for 8-10 minutes, making sure to scrape the flour from the sides of the bowl, until you have a smooth ball of dough that no longer sticks to your hands.
Shape the dough into a ball. Place back into the bowl and then cover with a damp towel. Leave to sit in a warm area or in the oven and leave on a ‘proof’ setting for at least 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Once the dough has doubled, you can also check by punching a small hole with your finger. If it doesn’t bounce back, your dough is ready!
Making the Wrappers and Buns:
Divide the dough into half. Roll out 2 logs and then divide each one into 4 to get 8 pieces in total. Each piece will be around 40-45 grams.
Keep the dough covered with a damp towel to avoid them from drying while you work on each piece.
Roll a piece of dough into a ball and then lightly flatten on a floured surface. With a rolling pin or small dumpling rolling pin (which I used), roll the dough until you have a round wrapper that’s around 3.5 to 4” in diameter. Repeat this for the rest of the dough.
Pinch the sides of each wrapper to thin out. See video for a better idea. From here, each wrapper will be around 4 to 4.5” in diameter.
Scoops 1 to 1.5 tbsp of filling into the center of the wrapper, avoiding the sides. It’s important not to get curry sauce in the sides of the wrapper since it’ll get messy and it’ll be harder to seal the buns.
Grab the edges of the wrapper and seal tight around the edges by pinching together. Lightly tuck in the sides to seal again, making sure the filling doesn’t seep out.
Repeat this for the rest of the wrappers until you have 8 buns. The buns will continue to rise, especially if in warmer temperatures, so keep an eye out for possible expansion and seals that might open up! You can just pinch these together in case.
‘Egg’ Wash and Coating:
Mix the cornstarch and milk together until the starch has diluted to make your ‘egg’ wash. Make sure to mix this well before brushing since the cornstarch and sit at the bottom.
Place the bread crumbs in a plate or shallow bowl.
Brush a bun with the the egg wash throughout all the sides then place it onto the breadcrumbs. Pat the breadcrumbs onto the bun to coat evenly. Repeat this step for the rest.
If baking, heat your oven to 350F and prepare a lined baking tray. Brush the tray with some oil and place the buns. Spray or sprinkle the buns with a bit of oil.
Leave to bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly brown and crisp, flipping halfway through (if buns don’t open up).
If frying, heat a large pan or pot over high heat. Place enough oil to submerge at least half of the buns. Test the heat by adding some breadcrumbs. If it bubbles, the oil is hot enough.
Place the a few buns into the oil. The number of buns will depend on the size of your pan or pot. Leave to cook for around 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Keep at eye out that they don’t burn!
Flip over and cook for the other side.
NOTE, if your buns open up during the frying process and the curry seeps out, immediately take it out of the oil and place it on a baking tray. You can bake it for the rest of the cooking time. I baked mine in an oven toaster for around 15 minutes, depending on how cooked it was upon removing from the oil.
Drain out excess oil from the fried buns and enjoy while hot!
STORAGE AND REHEATING:
You can refrigerate the buns for up to 1 week and reheat on an oven toaster until hot and crisp.