Sourdough has been Melbourne’s bread of choice for a while. But that’s changing. These days a number of challengers are nipping at its heels. Focaccia has time-travelled here from the ‘90s and big, flat fougasses are having a bit of a moment, too. But shokupan, the thickly cut pillow-soft Japanese milk bread, might just be the most popular of them all.
Maybe it’s because of Melbourne’s recent love affair with the katsu sando, the blockbuster Japanese sandwich that typically relies on shokupan. Or it could be because, during the pandemic, many of us realised that raising and nurturing a sourdough starter is actually far more difficult than it looks. (By contrast, baking a loaf of shokupan is much more user-friendly.) Or maybe it just has something to do with the fact that shokupan is just like a loaf of classic supermarket white bread – except far better-looking and better-tasting.
Many of Melbourne’s best Japanese cafes now bake their own loaves in-house, and plenty of bakeries are getting in on the shokupan action, too. Here are our favourites.