Ikebukuro Tobu is Tokyo’s largest depachika. While exploring it recently we came across what is one of Tokyo’s great curry pans, bread filled with curry and deep-fried. This one caught my eye as it is called 豚の角煮カレーパン buta no kakuni kare-pan, simmered pork belly curry bread. The bread is studded with shards of bread that when deep-fried crisp up like croutons, offering a nice contrast to the tender pork belly inside. The curry is not very spicy, but just a hint of spice. This is definitely one of my favorite curry pan in the city.
Pan Rizotta is a bakery inside of Ikebukuro Tobu. This is the only Pan Rizotta in Japan, so the only place you will find this simmered pork belly curry pan. If you are in luck, as we were, the 揚げたて agetate sign will be out indicating it is hot out of the deep-fryer.
The Japanese have a love for “oyatsu pan” or snack breads that can be either savory or sweet. Pan is from the Portuguese for bread. The bakeries here are called pan-ya.
At the bakeries customers pick up a tray and tongs and carefully peruse the bakery putting their selection on the tray before paying. One popular oyatsu pan is curry bread. Savory curry stuffed into a soft dough that is often dipped into panko bread crumbs before being deep-fried.
24-hour convenience stores excel at offering food at a good level. We recently did a tasting of convenience store curry pan. At home, we spritz it with water before reheating in the toaster oven.
The four we tried, clockwise from upper-right:
Lawson Beef curry pan (125 JPY)
Lawson Spice curry pan (180 JPY)
Family Mart curry pan (108 JPY)
7-11 Koku Uma curry pan (130 JPY)
Our favorite was the cheapest one, from Family Mart. It had a nice flavor of curry that wasn’t too complicated. The 7-11 curry pan was very sweet, surely from many vegetables like carrots and onions.
The two Lawson curry breads were nice. The Spice curry pan is made from 30 different spice and definitely had more complexity than the rest. The Lawson beef curry pan left me asking, “where’s the beef” (which may date me).
Regardless, be sure to try a curry pan when you are in Japan. It’s a quintessential snack bread. If you are lucky, the sign will say 焼き立て or 焼きたて, for hot, out of the oven.