OFF THE SHELF
Panko are crumbs taken to a higher level
By Candy Sagon, Washington Post; Wanda A. Adams, Advertiser food editor
|Panko produce a marvelously light and crisp crust on battered and fried foods.
The word is showing up all over menus these days and not just in Japanese restaurants, where chefs have long known of the value of this crunchy breading material.
Panko (PAHN-koh) are Japanese bread crumbs. What makes them so beloved by chefs (and everyone else who tries them) is the wonderfully light, crispy crust they produce in fried foods.
Panko crumbs are coarser than traditional American bread crumbs they somewhat resemble shredded coconut but they're also more tender and delicate. While American bread crumbs are made by grinding up dried bread, panko crumbs are produced with an "electro-static bake," according to the Japanese manufacturers. Bread dough is shot through with electrical currents that cook it without the conventional heat, they say. The result is a fluffier, crispier crumb.
Besides familiar tempura, you can use panko on fish cakes (crab cakes or even tuna), chicken fingers, croquettes of various kinds, in a gratin-type topping for casseroles, pasta or meat dishes or on anything you'd bread and fry. For best results in working with panko, dust item lightly with flour, dip into egg wash (egg white and water or milk) and then roll in panko. You can then brown the item in hot oil (watch for burning) and finish it in the oven as needed.
The result is an airy, crisp coating that shatters with a crunch as you bite into it.