When I was living in Chiba, right outside Tokyo, I would frequently visit this small bakery inside the Chiba train station called The Little Mermaid. It was quaint, cute and clean with dozens of fresh baked goods all efficiently lined up in a way very Japanese. In fact, I think it was the first place I visited with my host mom at the time. I remember she picked up a few round buns filled with all different things ( I had no idea what she bought until we cracked them open hours later ). They had buns filled with ham, eggs, seaweed, rice, cheese, sweet, savory, salty, whatever you can imagine there was a bun filled with it.
On my way to and from Tokyo, one of my favorite things to do would to pick out a bun and be surprised as to what was inside as I scoffed it down on the hour train ride into the city. One of my favorites was called Anpan, which is a steam bun with a sweet red bean paste ( anko ) filling. It was the perfect balance of sweet and savory and a ( somewhat ) healthy alternative to a doughnut.
Anpan is a very popular dish throughout Japan and most of Asia. Traditionally these buns are steamed in a bamboo steamer for 15 or so minutes but, unfortunately my bamboo steamer doesn’t exist so I adapted and used an oven. This gives the buns a more ‘bread’ texture and less doughy and also allows you to play with toppings, like egg wash.
One bite of this pastry instantly transported me back to living in Japan. I hope you guys enjoy this unique dish as much as I enjoyed baking and eating it.
Little Mermaid Cafe - Chiba, Japan
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 cup Anko ( here’s my recipe )
- 1 1/3 cup flour
- 3 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast
- 3/4 tablespoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water ( 110 °F )
- 1 tablespoon butter or shortening
** Optional **
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons water
- sesame seeds
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Combine water and yeast to in a large bowl, set aside.
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- Cut in butter with fork or pastry blender.
- Add dry mixture to yeast. Add milk.
- Combine and knead until firm and elastic ( about 2 minutes ) If sticky add a little flour, 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Cover with a damp paper town and set aside for 30 minutes. Dough will rise slightly.
*** If not steaming, prep large baking sheet with a dusting of flour ***
- Separate into 10 equal balls.
- Flatten in palm. Add 1-2 teaspoons of Anko.
- Pinch close at bottom.
- Place on baking ban / steamer ( seam on bottom )
- At this point I glazed the tops with egg wash ( whisk together egg and water ) and garnished with sesame.
- Set aside for 15 minutes to rise.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 or prepare steamer
- Bake / steam for 15 minutes
- Remove from baking tray, cool for 5 minutes
いただきます! ! ! !