Japanese curry bread (Kare Pan) is a popular food sold at Japanese bakeries and convenient stores. It features savoury Japanese curry filling enveloped in soft and chewy dough that is coated in panko then deep fried to deep, golden brown perfection! I also tested this recipe in the air fryer and can happily confirm they were stellar, so you can find instructions for air fryer these Japanese curry bread as well. This recipe is stand-alone but you can also follow the recipe using leftover curry from another meal (a common practice) of which you will need about one cup worth.
Coating and frying
This recipe requires 2 hours rest time.
Activate the yeast by warming the milk in the microwave for 20 seconds to lukewarm temperature, around 110°F. Add sugar and yeast, whisking quickly to minimize clumps. Bloom for 10 minutes until frothy.
Make the dough by adding flour, sugar and salt to bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix dry ingredients well. You may also mix and knead the dough by hand which will take longer than stand mixer.
Once yeast is activated, add to dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Scrape off dough hook. Add oil or butter allowing to incorporate for 10 seconds of mixing. Increase mixer speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and pliable. Knead dough a few times on the counter and shape into a ball. Place in greased bowl and cover with kitchen towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour or longer depending on your ambient temperature and climate. Poke dough ball with a finger. If indentation remains, the dough is ready.
While the dough proofs, make the filling (tip: the filling can be made in advance and kept refrigerated overnight. Refrigeration helps the filling be less runny and easier to manage when filling the buns). Heat skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add oil, onion, carrots and garlic. Sauté until onion and carrots have softened. Add a bit more oil and the ground beef, curry powder, turmeric powder and salt. Sauté and break apart ground beef with spatula. Once beef is cooked, add soy sauce and broth. Once simmering, add cornstarch slurry. Cook 30 seconds more or when liquid has thickened a touch. Transfer to a container to cool fully. Do not fill the buns with warm filling.
Once dough has proofed, punch down with a fist and turn onto countertop. Pat with finger tips to pop any air bubbles and flatten into a disc. Cut dough into 6 equally-sized triangles, about 56 g each. Knead each piece for 15 seconds and shape into a ball, pinching and tucking edges underneath. Place balls on a tray and cover with tea towel to rest for 10 minutes.
Fill and roll: Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a circle 4 ½-inch in diameter. Place about 3 heaped tablespoons of filling in the center, taking care not to get any on the dough edges or it will be difficult to seal. Pull up dough edges at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock and bring them together away from the filling. Press firmly with fingers. Pinch along both sides toward the two ends to seal firmly into a plump, half-moon. Roll/fold pinched edge over to ensure it is very well-sealed. Any gaps will result in the buns splitting during deep frying or air frying. Turn over and place seal-side down back onto tray. Cover and repeat with the rest.
Whisk egg in shallow dish. Place panko in shallow dish.
Dip each piece in egg, turning over a couple of times coat well. Then place on panko and scoop panko crumbs all over, pressing lightly with fingertips to adhere well. Place back on tray and keep covered. Rest a final time at room temperature for 30 minutes.
You can deep fry or air fry these buns and they are both excellent! To deep fry: heat oil to 325-350°F. In batches of 1 or 2, slide into hot oil, seam side down. Fry each side until deep brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
To air fry: preheat at 350°F. Spray top and sides with oil. Air fry 6 minutes. Flip, spray oil again and air fry another minute (or 2) to deep golden brown.
Enjoy fresh or at room temperature. Leftover Japanese curry buns can be stored in an airtight container or ziptop bag the fridge for a couple of days. Reheat by baking at 325°F for 7-10 minutes or until fully heated through. If you had a little bit of leftover filling, enjoy it with leftover rice.