Holiday Gift Guide

In Japan, there are a LOT of food items you can only find in a specific to a town, city, or area. ご当地グルメ or "local gourmet food" items are something tourists must get when they visit the area. Some of the foods are too weird to ever become popular, and others get national attention, becoming available throughout Japan.

Any food fad in Japan is always very temporal. Panna Cotta, Nata de coco, Belgian waffles, tiramisu, Krispy Kreme, for example, all became very popular, and went away a year later. (I maybe wrong about Krispy Kreme, since they seem to still be doing good).

Started in a bakery in Hokkaido, Chikuwa Pan (tube shaped fish cake wrapped in bread dough) got national attention and  is apparently very hot in Japan right now. I glanced at an article recently and thought it was a great combo-- a major bread company took it and started to sell it in cosmopolitan areas as well.

I love bread with savory stuff inside. Japan totally transformed the notion of bread and made it their own. The Japanese treat bread almost the same as rice, stuffing anything from potato salad, ham, curry, to even noodles (noodle with bread is such a carb overload). My grandmother used to put pickled vegetable on buttered toast, which in concept is similar to Vegemite, I think.  Even in the US, hot dogs are used to stuff bread, puff pastry, etc.

So I made chikuwa pan the other day.


Chikuwa is available at any Japanese grocery store here in NYC, but they are not the best kind. They are also kept in the frozen food isle, which is unfortunate.  Fresh chikuwa is something you gotta try when you go to Japan. The recipe is quite simple. I am not even going to write about the bread part since you can basically use any soft bread recipe (a dinner rolls one works fine).

What else do you need?

12 chikuwa
1 can of tuna fish (in water)
Kewpie mayo
Egg wash

While the bread rises, cut chikuwa lengthwise. Mix tuna fish and mayo, and stuff it inside of chikuwa's hole. Don't over stuff it.


Divide bread dough into 12, and roll it out into a thin and long rope, then wrap it around the chikuwa.


Once you wrap the chikuwa, rest for about 30-45 minutes, then egg wash it. If you want, you can pipe a thin line of mayo on the center.  Bake it in 350˚ until golden.


Tuna in the center, chikuwa, then bread outside. Just the way it should be.


I need to tweek this next time. First of all, bread was a bit too tough. I need to use softer bread recipe, such as a hamburger bun recipe or something-- it may be too sticky to stretch into rope, but that texture is more suitable for this recipe. The chikuwa was mediocre and the tuna was a bit too fishy to my taste.

I don't think I will use tuna next time.  Maybe corn and mayo? Cheese?