Bread crumbs can make a crispy, fried coating on just about any food. From vegetables and meat to the topping for oven-baked casseroles, bread crumbs are versatile enough to fit in with many dishes. Panko is a type of bread crumb from Japan that also has practical uses in Western dishes.
Panko breading is a specific Japanese style of bread crumb. Panko is made from white or wheat bread and does not include the crust. The crumbs produce a light and crunchy coating when fried. Panko breading is also good for healthy versions of fried dishes because they crisp well when baked. Panko is available at Asian grocery stores, and with its popularity growing, even major producers like Progresso are making panko bread crumbs.
Panko differs from regular bread crumbs in that they are dried rather than toasted. Homemade panko can be made in various sized flakes, depending on your preference. It is best to use Japanese white bread if you can find it in specialty Japanese bakeries or make your own at home. Japanese white bread is airy, soft, stringy and not as dense as commonly found, store-bought breads. Spread white bread with no crust on a baking sheet and put it in a preheated oven and turn the oven off. Flip the slices until they are dry but not toasted, approximately eight minutes. Using a food processor or grater, shred the bread to a size of your liking.
Panko bread crumbs come in many varieties, already blended with spices. Commercially produced panko with Italian, lemon pepper, garlic and Tex-Mex seasonings are available at grocery stores. If you make your own panko breading at home you can mix any kind of spice to make a customized blend. Panko breading can also be mixed with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg with a little bit of sugar to make a sweet breading for desserts.
Panko can be substituted for bread crumbs in any recipe. In Japan panko is used as the coating for deep-fried meats and seafood. Panko makes a good crispy coating for healthy baked versions of pan- or deep-fried meats like pork chops, and vegetables like onion rings. You can also use panko to make other crispy roasted vegetables like eggplant and asparagus, or as the breaded topping for casseroles like macaroni and cheese.
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