On almost every corner of the Japanese city streets, you can see a lot of sweet bread on sale in different bakeries. But do you know which one of these is one of the most popular for both young and old? It is the melonpan (melon bread)! It is a type of sweet bun with a thin cookie crust on top. It was created around 50 years ago by a Kobe baker who started molding it into a football shape, which happened to look similar to that of a rockmelon as well. What is melonpan? Can you make it at home as well?
Melonpan is not only popular in Japan, it is also famous in Taiwan, China, and Latin America. Inspiration to create melon pan in Japan is believed to have come from European countries. The name melonpan has a bilingual etymology: ‘melon’ from English and ‘pan’ from Portuguese. As mentioned earlier, the name has nothing to do with the flavor. Flavoring the melon pan with real melon has just been a recent development in its history. Some people even try to experiment by adding lemon zest and vanilla extract. Others go the distance by baking melonpan using chocolate, caramel, or maple syrup flavors.
In the regions of Kinki, Chugoku, and Shikoku of Japan, the pattern that is seen on a melonpan is reminiscent of the rays of the sun, so it is not a surprise it is also called ‘sunrise’. In comparison with Hong Kong’s pineapple bun (which looks a lot like melon pan!), melonpan is lighter in nature. The taste is lighter as well and slightly dryer while the pineapple bun is moist. Also, melonpan’s natural outer layer is firmer so it doesn’t flake as much. Hong Kong’s pineapple bun is more delicate as the top crust tends to flake easily.
It is rather time-consuming if you want to make melonpan at home, as it involves a lot of waiting. However, it is quite easy making your own if you follow this tutorial. If you’re fortunate enough, as it is not a difficult one to make, you can make a melon pan that tastes even better than the ones sold in bakeries, as you will get the freshest bread! Itadakimasu (have a good meal)!