The majority of the dishes found in Japanese cuisine contain a multitude of healthy ingredients. However, even the Japanese occasionally give in to their cravings for fried food. Dishes such as tonkatsu and cream croquette often start with healthy ingredients that are then fried up in oil, which, of course, directly contradicts the nutrition we might have received from what is being fried.
But you cannot deny that it just tastes so good, and when your ears hear that sizzling sound, your mouth waters! Westerners are obviously no strangers to fried foods. Dishes such as casseroles and stuffing also use bread crumbs to add body and flavor to the ground meat. Nearly every kitchen in America likely has a container of bread crumbs in the pantry, but how many also contain panko?
What is Panko?
Panko is the Japanese version of bread crumbs, and once you use them, you may opt to make them your go-to bread crumb of choice from then on. Boasting more flavor and crispness than traditional bread crumbs, many health advocates say that it is also healthier than Western bread crumbs.
Panko appears as slightly larger and coarse, jagged pieces of dried bread, as opposed to the small granules you are familiar with. Panko is made from the soft, tender parts of the bread, rather than the crust like Western bread crumbs. The result is a crunchier texture as well as a more uniform, appealing golden brown luster on fried foods.
Although slightly larger, they are also lighter than Western bread crumbs, stay crispier longer, and contain fewer calories and salt. Because of their coarse shape, they also absorb less grease than Western bread crumbs, which helps to maintain their crispness and also means you ultimately consume less grease as well.
Additionally, less panko is needed to sufficiently coat food. This helps the flavor of the fried foods to not be overwhelmed by the bread crumbs. It also means the meal isn’t so heavy on your stomach, as many fried foods tend to be.
Culinary Uses for Panko
Obviously, fried foods using panko are one of the main culinary uses for the Japanese bread crumbs. Foods can be easily coated using a light egg wash. It should be noted that using whole eggs can cause more of a dense coating. That can be too heavy for the coarser crumbs, interfering in a uniform consistency and ruining the texture.
In addition to fried foods, you can use panko in everything from meatloaf to garnishing for salads. It can even be found in an Italian style now, just like Western bread crumbs. Or you can flavor panko yourself with herbs and spices, such as ginger, chili pepper, basil, etc.
Over recent years, panko has actually become pretty common. It can often be found in the International aisle of supermarkets, if not where the regular bread crumbs are located. Look for brands that do not contain hydrogenated oils to ensure healthier panko.