Bread in Asia: How China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines Do It Differently

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Bread is a staple food in many countries around the world, but how does it differ in Asia?

The Japanese, for example, love their bread. They have their own unique twist on the classic loaf and use it in many of their dishes. Koreans, on the other hand, love their bread fresh from the oven, and the Koreans love their bread so much they even have a word for bread-loving: “gabgab”.

In this article, I’ll take a look at the various types of bread in Asia and how it’s used in the local cuisine.

Bread in Asia

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The Rise of Bread Consumption in Asia

While bread consumption is high in many Asian countries, there are significant differences in the level of consumption from country to country. Japan, for example, has a lower level of bread consumption compared to other Asian countries. However, the country is known for its traditional bread-making methods and the high quality of its bread products.

In contrast, the Philippines has recorded a noticeable increase in bread consumption over the years. The country has experienced fluctuations in bread consumption, but the trend has indicated a steady increase in the annual average.

Bread in China: A Steaming Success

Bread has been a part of Chinese cuisine for centuries, with different regions putting their own spin on the doughy delight. In northern China, wheat is the primary grain used to make bread, while in central and southern China, rice flour is more commonly used. Bread is a staple food in China and is eaten in various forms, from sweet to savory.

Mantou: The Beloved Bread

One of the most popular types of bread in China is mantou, a steamed bun made from dough that is typically made with wheat flour. Mantou is a beloved bread in China and can be found in almost every corner of the country. It is often served as a side dish or as a snack and can be filled with a variety of ingredients, such as meat, vegetables, or sweet bean paste.

The Art of Steaming

Steaming is the primary method of cooking bread in China. The dough is shaped into various forms, from small buns to large loaves, and then placed in a steamer basket. The basket is then placed in a wok or pot filled with boiling water, and the bread is steamed until it is cooked through. Steaming is a gentle cooking method that allows the bread to retain its moisture and flavor.

Regional Variations

As with many foods in China, bread varies greatly from region to region. In northern China, bread is typically served as a savory side dish, while in southern China, it is often served as a sweet snack. In some regions, bread is even used as a wrap for meat or vegetables.

The Future of Bread in China

As China continues to modernize, the popularity of bread is on the rise. While traditional breads like mantou remain popular, Western-style bread is becoming more common in urban areas. Despite this, traditional bread-making techniques and recipes are still passed down from generation to generation, ensuring that bread will remain an important part of Chinese cuisine for years to come.

  • Bread has been a part of Chinese cuisine for centuries
  • Mantou is a beloved bread in China and can be found in almost every corner of the country
  • Steaming is the primary method of cooking bread in China
  • Bread varies greatly from region to region in China
  • Traditional bread-making techniques and recipes are still passed down from generation to generation

Bread in Japan: A Unique Twist on the Classic Loaf

When it comes to making bread in Japan, there are a few key ingredients that are commonly used. These include:

  • Flour: Japanese bread is typically made with a mix of bread flour and all-purpose flour.
  • Yeast: Active dry yeast is the most commonly used type of yeast in Japan.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter is often used to add richness to the bread.
  • Milk: Whole milk is typically used in Japanese bread recipes.
  • Sugar: A small amount of sugar is often added to the dough to help it rise.
  • Salt: Just a pinch of salt is used to enhance the flavor of the bread.

The Making of the Dough

Making bread in Japan follows a similar process to making bread in other parts of the world. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and melted butter.
3. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until a dough forms.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for several minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
5. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl.
6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free room for about an hour.
7. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and shape it into an oval or roll it into a ball.
8. Place the dough in a greased loaf pan and let it rise again for another 30 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 375°F and bake the bread for 30-35 minutes, or until it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

A Unique Twist

While the process of making bread in Japan is similar to other parts of the world, there are a few unique twists that set Japanese bread apart. Here are a few examples:

  • Milk Bread: This type of bread is made with a combination of milk, butter, and sugar, which gives it a soft, fluffy texture.
  • Melon Pan: This sweet bread is shaped like a melon and has a crispy cookie crust on top.
  • Anpan: A sweet bread filled with red bean paste, which is a popular ingredient in Japanese desserts.
  • Curry Bread: A savory bread filled with curry and vegetables, which is a popular snack in Japan.

The Final Touches

Once the bread is finished baking, there are a few final touches that can be added to enhance the flavor. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Brush the top of the bread with melted butter for a rich, buttery flavor.
  • Make a simple syrup by simmering equal parts sugar and water until it thickens. Brush the syrup over the top of the bread for a sweet, shiny finish.
  • Serve the bread warm with a pat of butter or a drizzle of honey for a delicious treat.

Bread in Korea: A Delicious Twist on Traditional Treats

Bread may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Korean cuisine, but it has become an increasingly important part of the country’s food culture. In the past, bread was considered a luxury item and was only available to the wealthy. However, with the growing popularity of Western cuisine in Korea, bread has become more accessible and is now enjoyed by people from all walks of life.

Innovative Twists on Traditional Confectionery

Korean bakers have taken traditional bread recipes and added their own unique twists to create new and exciting flavors. Some popular examples include:

Red Bean Bread:
A sweet bread filled with red bean paste, a traditional Korean ingredient.

Green Tea Bread:
A bread infused with green tea powder, a popular flavor in Korean desserts.

Sweet Potato Bread:
A bread made with mashed sweet potatoes, a staple ingredient in Korean cuisine.

Upcycling and Sustainable Practices in Korean Bakeries

Korean bakeries are also exploring sustainable practices and upcycling ingredients to reduce waste. Some bakeries are using leftover bread to make croutons or bread pudding, while others are using unsold bread to make animal feed or even pharmaceuticals.

Bread in the Philippines: A Delicious Tradition

When it comes to traditional bread making in the Philippines, the process is quite similar to other countries. Here’s a breakdown of the steps involved:

  • Mixing the dough: The dough is made by combining flour, yeast, liquids (usually water or milk), and other ingredients like sugar and salt. The dough is mixed using a hook attachment on a stand mixer or by hand.
  • Kneading the dough: Once the dough is mixed, it needs to be kneaded to develop the gluten. This is done by hand or with a stand mixer on a low speed.
  • Proofing the dough: After kneading, the dough is left to rest and rise in a warm, humid place for a few hours. This allows the yeast to ferment and create air pockets in the dough.
  • Baking the bread: Finally, the dough is shaped and baked in an oven at a specific temperature until it’s golden brown and fully cooked.

Upcycling and Sustainable Bread Making in the Philippines

In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards sustainable and upcycled bread making in the Philippines. Here are some ways that bakers are reducing waste and creating delicious bread:

  • Using leftover bread to make new bread: Instead of throwing away stale bread, bakers can use it to make new bread by grinding it into breadcrumbs or soaking it in milk to create a bread pudding-like mixture.
  • Using alternative flours: Bakers are experimenting with alternative flours like cassava, sweet potato, and rice flour to create unique and flavorful bread.
  • Reducing plastic waste: Some bakeries are switching to paper or reusable bags instead of plastic bags to reduce waste.


So, that’s how bread is consumed in Asia, from sweet to savory. It’s a staple food for many and has been for centuries. It’s a part of the culture and has influenced the way of life. It’s a delicious way to enjoy a meal and has many nutritional benefits. So, don’t be afraid to try some new types of bread!

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.