Looking for a quick, take-out vegan meal option in Japan? Here’s a new twist on a Japanese bakery favorite.

Compared to most Western countries, Japan doesn’t eat much meat. That’s not to say that the country doesn’t eat meat often, though, as you’ll find at least a bit of beef, chicken, pork or fish in most Japanese dishes, whether as the star ingredient, a strategic accent, or a less obvious element such as soup or seasoning stock.

In recent years, though, international influences have made vegan restaurants more common in Japan than they once were. Such eateries are often connected with the slow food philosophy, though, which makes them an impractical choice for travelers with a full sightseeing itinerary, or busy locals looking for a quick, non-meat-based way to fill up.

Japanese bakery chain Pompadour, however, has a new option that’s quick, filling, and vegan, plus, just as importantly, delicious.

On July 12, Pompadour (which is based in Yokohama but has branches across Japan, including several in Tokyo) released its brand new Vegan Curry Bread. While curry bread is a staple of Japanese bakeries, the roux, as well as chunks of meat inside the bread, make it a decidedly non-vegan foodstuff. Pompadour’s Vegan Curry Bread, however, uses no animal products whatsoever.

▼ As always with Japanese bakeries, you use tongs to put your selections on a tray, then bring the tray up to the register where the clerk will ring you up and bag your purchases.

The bread gets its striking black color from the bamboo charcoal mixed into the dough (giving it a culinary connection with the black hamburgers that took Japan by storm a few years ago).

Another special ingredient is soy milk, which is added to the dough before baking to help keep the bread soft and moist, even if it’s been a while since it came out of the oven.

Speaking of baking, Pompadour’s Vegan Curry Bread belongs to the style of curry bread called yaki kare pan in Japan, which is baked, as opposed to deep-fried age kare pan or kare donatsu. As such, it’s pretty healthy, with just 165 calories and 3.01 grams of fat per curry-filled piece.

▼ Pompadour does sell deep-fried (and non-vegan) curry bread too, though.

The Vegan Curry Bread has a surprising amount of heft to it. Because of the holes in the top of the bread, as soon as you take it out of the bag you’ll notice the distinct aroma of curry. Though curry bread is normally eaten as finger food, I wanted to take a peek inside, so I grabbed a knife and sliced open a window to its inner workings.

Now with even more fragrant curry scent wafting forth, I took a closer look and found that the Vegan Curry Bread contains pieces of carrot (which is an ever-present part of Japanese curry) along with chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans.

Then it was time to take a bite, and I found out that while it’s not fiercely fiery, it’s definitely spicier than the mild baseline for most curry bread in Japan. There’s a noticeable kick, and enough so that my wife, born and raised in Japan, gave up after one bite.

▼ All for me!

Honestly, if you didn’t know ahead of time that this curry bread is vegan, odds are you wouldn’t be able to tell. Yes, it has a little less richness than ordinary curry breads, likely due to the absence of animal fat, but the extra spice makes up for that, and also avoids the greasy sensation that exists in some cheap, prepackaged varieties. At the same time, the roux in Pompadour’s Vegan Curry Bread isn’t at all dry.

As for the bread itself, the bamboo charcoal gives it just a touch of bitterness. Not enough to be harsh, though, and it actually functions as a bit of a between-bite palate-cleanser. Oh, and while the words “bamboo” and “charcoal” might bring to mind hard, coarse textures, the bread is soft and fluffy, just as promised.

So in the end, Pompadour’s Vegan Curry Bead is delicious enough to satisfy even people who’re ordinarily consumed by carnivorous cravings. Priced at 194 yen (US$1.75) and requiring no utensils to eat, it’s an excellent option for a mobile meal as you bounce around Japan this summer, and will be available until August 11.

Related: Pompadour location finder
Reference: @Press
Photos ©SoraNews24

Follow Casey on Twitter, where between Pompadour’s bread and Kurikoan’s taiyaki, he’s proud to be a resident of Yokohama.