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Kobe: Bread as a staple food in the land of sushi

Kobe: Bread as a staple food in the land of sushi

It is certainly no secret when it comes to food, Japan is a country that regularly surprises the world. Incredible culinary feats such as Japanese whiskey being named best in the world, or chef David Chang claiming the best pizza in the world is in Tokyo and not Italy. One of the most common assumptions people make of my diet in Japan is that I must eat rice and fish every day, but that is certainly not the case in my new adopted home of Kobe (神戸市 Kōbe-shi) in Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県 Hyōgo-ken).


The classic French batard from Boulangerie Francaise DONQ. (Image credit: Eugene Lee)


Bread is a staple food in many countries around the globe so it should not surprise anyone that it is popular in Japan and it is particularly popular in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture. Famous as a port town, 1868 marked the opening of the Port of Kobe to the world. From this point on, people from other countries settled in the area and began to bring tastes from their respective homes with them, which includes a culture of bread consumption that is unlike most other parts of Japan. Of course, there are certainly different styles of bread and I am happy to report that Kobe has a wide range of bakeries that represent whatever school of bread suits your fancy.


Boulangerie Francaise DONQ

DONQ French toast, with a crust so crisp you can see it. (Image credit: Eugene Lee)


Representing the French styles of bread is Boulangerie Francaise DONQ. Currently celebrating their 115th anniversary, this bakery specialises in classic French loaves like the baguette and the batard, as well as a small selection of pastries like croissants. The common criticism of Japanese loaves of bread is their focus on soft pillowy textures, but that is certainly not the case at DONQ. Their loaves have a shatteringly crisp exterior and an airy soft interior. It is obvious upon tasting any item in their wide selection that they place a huge emphasis on the crust. Even a dish like their French toast, which one expects to have a soft, custardy centre, maintains a crisp and delicious exterior that provides a wonderful textural contrast.  


Boulangerie Francaise DONQ (ドンク)
Address: 2-10-19 Sannomiyacho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0021
Nearest station: Sannomiya Station (三宮駅)
Opening hours: 9am8pm (Daily)



Dense German walnut rye from Freundlieb. (Image credit: Eugene Lee)


Representing the German school of bread is Freundlieb, which started in 1924, and moved to the former Kobe Union Church building in 1997. The now-iconic gothic church building is a beautiful setting for a fabulous café lunch. The bakery offers up very traditional loaves of dense pumpernickel, rye and sourdough bread. Density is so often considered a negative trait in bread but the Freundlieb loaves are sure to change your opinions. Their walnut rye was incredible. The nutty notes of rye in combination with the textural crunch of walnuts and a crunchy and delicious crust was such a refreshing change to the soft sandwich loaves that dominate the supermarket aisle.


An early 19th century gothic church, the current location of Freundlieb. (Image credit: Eugene Lee)


Freundlieb (フロインドリーブ)
Address: Kobe Hankyu Western Confectionery Section B1F, 8-1-8 Onoedori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 651-8511
Nearest station: Sannomiya Station (三宮駅)
Opening hours:  10am8pm (Daily)


Isuzu Bakery

Curry and bread, local and international, a fine example of culinary fusion. (Image credit: Eugene Lee)


Representing the Japanese styles of bread is Isuzu Bakery in operation since 1946. Japan has taken the concept of bread and woven in their own preferences of fillings and flavours into the canvas of bread to create an entirely different style. The Japanese style of baking tends to focus most on the single serving, filling oriented rolls that are perfect for a quick lunch during a busy workday. Of note at Isuzu bakery is their beef tendon curry-filled roll, that is breaded in panko and deep-fried. 


Isuzu Bakery Kitanozaka (イスズベーカリー)
Address: Sannomiya Goyo Building, 1-8-18 Nakayamatedori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0004
Nearest station: Sannomiya Station (三宮駅)
Opening hours: 10am11pm (Monday–Thursday), 10am12pm (Friday–Saturday), 10am11pm (Sunday) 


Perhaps travellers to Japan might think it strange to waste valuable stomach space on bread, something that most people would not think is indigenous or authentic to Japan. To that person, I would say that authenticity is overrated. It would be like saying that pasta is no good because noodles started in Asia, so every other version is not worth tasting. Why wouldn’t the bread be good in a country that has beaten Scotland for the world’s best scotch and Italy for the world’s best pizza? The bakeries of Kobe have a long and storied history and their wares are well worth trying. 


Header image credit: Eugene Lee


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