Anpan: The Meaning of Sesame Seeds on Top of the Bun
“Anpan (あんパン)” is a classic Japanese round bun first made in 1874 by the founder of a bakery named Kimuraya (present-day Kimuraya Sohonten) (Google Map), “Kimura Yasubei (木村安兵衛)”.
As you may already know, the main features of the round bun Anpan are sweet bean paste called “Anko (餡子)” filled in the bun and sesame seeds on top of it.
The most common Anko variety for Anpan is sweetened Azuki red bean paste, but sweet white bean paste made of kidney beans called “Shiro-An (白あん)” is also often used.
Anpan is one of the most loved sweet bread snacks in Japan and can be found in many convenience stores around the country.
Even if you haven’t seen the actual Anpan bun yet, it is easy to tell it apart from counterparts, because, as I mentioned above, the Japanese sweet bun is usually topped with whole sesame seeds gathered together at the center.
Why Anpan is topped with Sesame Seeds
Actually, in addition to whole sesame seeds, poppy seeds or pickled cherry blossoms called “Sakura-Zuke (桜漬け)” are also commonly prepared as a topping for Anpan.
In 1875 when presenting Anpan to the Meiji emperor, Sakura-Zuke was first used for the buns as a decoration, but sesame seeds and poppy seeds were originally used for the sweet to distinguish fillings from the outside.
Although there used to be the rule that poppy seeds were prepared for Anpan with “Koshi-An (こし餡: smooth Anko red bean paste)”, while black sesame seeds were for Anpan with “Tsubu-An (粒あん: chunky Anko red bean paste)”, today the topping used for the sweet bun varies depending on the producer.