Pillowy soft, with a fine crumb and a crisp, tanned exterior, shokupan is a Japanese staple, and it’s gained an almost-cult following in Melbourne over the past few years. Sometimes called milk bread, it typically relies on a base of dairy and eggs, but at South Yarra’s new Fuumi Baker, vegans aren’t left high and dry. “We twisted the recipe by adding coconut instead,” says owner Joanne Zhang. “Even [non-vegans] will go for this one.”
But it’s just one of the many variations she’s trialling here; two recent creations include a Biscoff- and cinnamon-swirled version, and another made with teriyaki chicken and spring onion.
“I like to try out different things,” says Zhang, who’s been a home baker for more than 10 years and develops all recipes introduced at the bakery. “If it works well, I go ahead.”
The standard shokupan – made with imported Japanese flour for its high protein content – can be ordered by the whole or half loaf. It also comes in the form of various rotating sandos (including the classic katsu), or open faced with toppings like peanut butter and brûléed banana, or matcha custard and red-bean paste.
The offering is an extension of local-favourite cafe Fuumi Fuumi in West Melbourne, which opened a little over a year ago. It began as takeaway-only but quickly expanded for dine-in trade – with a more extensive menu. Zhang hopes that, as the business grows, she can showcase the quality and diversity of Asian breads and baked goods.
“It’s quite interesting to me – people have the thought that Asian bakeries are not as good as French bakeries,” she says. “I want to prove to others that there is a high quality of Asian bakeries.”
Menu items vary between locations. Brunch and dessert are a bigger focus at the West Melbourne store, while in South Yarra it’s mostly about grab-and-go Japanese breads – you might find shio pan (which looks like a cross between a bread roll and a croissant) or yakisoba pan (a long, soft bread roll filled with stir-fried noodles). The latter swaps out soy-doused soba noodles for Indomie – making it an Indonesian spin on the Japanese classic.
The petite Daly Street space is just large enough to house Fuumi’s entire baking operation. All bread is baked there from 5am daily, then divided between locations.