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Panko (Recipe: panko and mustard crusted fish)

Panko fish

Before our first visit to Japan, in 1986, Ted and I tried to memorize one hundred words we thought we'd need -- please and thank you, taxi, toilet, bank, subway, where, how much.

Shrimp (ebi) and train station (eki), both on our list of necessary words, were so similar that it was inevitable we'd confuse the two.

When it happened, when we were sitting in a cafe near the mountain town of Nikko, when we ordered soup noodles with a train station on top, it was funny. More so because, as I recall, the cafe actually was in a train station.

The bowl of soup noodles arrived, topped with a shrimp (yes, victory!) coated with panko, and the first bite of the light, crispy crustacean wiped away all of our embarrassment at asking for a train station in our soup.

Panko bread crumbs

Panko means "bread crumbs" in Japanese; it comes from the combination of pan, or "bread," and ko, meaning "powder". This particular type of jagged-edged breadcrumb has a coarse texture that resembles flakes; because the flakes have more surface area, they get crispier than regular breadcrumbs when used as a coating.

I've seen panko in three varieties; white, made from yeast bread baked in a special oven so it forms no crust; tan, made with bread crusts in the crumb; and honey, which is white but slightly sweetened with sugar. Though made from wheat bread, Panko is more delicate, absorbs less oil, and stays crunchier for longer than traditional bread crumbs.

Once you've opened the package, store unused panko in a ziploc bag, in the cupboard. Don't freeze panko, as it will absorb moisture from freezing and thawing. If that does happen, use it in meatloaf, but not for coating.

If you can't find panko at your local market, buy it online or substitute cracker crumbs, which are lighter than traditional dried bread crumbs.

Panko and mustard crusted fish

Here in New England, we can get fresh, thick cod loin from the fishmonger. Use any firm, mild white fish for this recipe. If you're using thin fillets, be sure to adjust the cooking time. Serves 4.


2 lbs cod loin (or any mild white fish: cod, halibut, shark, tilapia)
1/2 cup panko
Zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1 heaping Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp olive oil


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Dry the fish with paper towels, and set in an ovenproof casserole dish. Coat on all sides with 1 Tbsp olive oil.

In a small bowl, mix panko, lemon zest, parsley, salt, pepper, mustard, and 2 Tbsp olive oil, until the panko is moistened. Press the mixture on top of the fish with your hand, to form a thick coating.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish; with cod loin, which is at least one inch thick, I baked for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the fish rest for 5 minutes before serving.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Chicken fingers
Jennifer's criminal crab cakes
Panko crusted baked chicken
Kartoum croquettes
Chipotle meatloaf

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that sounds like a winning recipe.

Your story reminds me of a similar situation with my dad... In Hebrew, "glasses" and "pants" are very similar. When he ran into a friend, he ended up saying to her... "Sorry I didn't recognize you, the last time I saw you, you weren't wearing your pants." OOPS!

And I'd like to add my song of praises to Panko. I never use regular bread crumbs anymore. Panko are wonderful!

This sounds fabulous! I've never seen pure white Panko, but I've been using a whole wheat Panko to sprinkle on my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.

I love panko! Thankfully my bulk store just started carrying it.
A great fish dish, delish! Hee,hee, I rhymed..!

Oh, that looks so yummy! I don't cook fish as much as I should. This looks wonderful!

I am drooling. (Also making a mental note that when I come to NY I must find out where TW gets the whole wheat panko, because I can't find it here any more!)

THANK YOU, I so need some new recipes for white fish. First, it is super healthy and second, my kids are really starting to dig seafood!

Thanks for the tip re: not freezing panko. I never have, but then again I don't usually have it around. I DO freeze my homemade rosemary breadcrumbs and they stand up beautifully. P.s. I am abroad for a year with my family in Florence Italy!!

Panko is my go to bread crumbs for anything frying. Love the crispiness. Plus with all the bread baking I have been doing I have an overabundance of breadcrumbs already in the freezer for stuff like meatloaf.

what a succulent looking dish! can't do panko but because of the gluten free thing but I can certainly admire your photos!

Delicious! I love it! :)

That fish looks perfect~

I was having issues with panko but finally got the hang of it thanks for yet another recipe to add to my "Lydia" recipe box

I'm sure my whole family would love this, even my picky-eater son. His eating philosophy is that mustard makes anything better!

Mae, Ginny, Pam: I can't describe how delicious this fish is. You'll just have to try it!

Julia, that's a lovely story. Thanks so much for sharing it -- definitely makes me feel better about some of the language mistakes I've made over the years (and there have been many mistakes).

TW, I find the white panko at my local Asian grocery stores.

Natashya, thanks for a bit of poetry in the morning!

Bridget, I feel very lucky to live in a place with so much coastline, and so many fish markets.

Kalyn, I don't know for sure but my guess is that whole wheat panko is a Whole Foods item.

Janelle, I learned not to freeze panko the hard way. Didn't make that mistake again. (And Florence -- I'm green with envy.)

Jeff, I definitely keep regular breadcrumbs in my pantry, to use for meatloaf and meatballs.

Carol, there's no getting around the gluten in these wheat-bread crumbs. Sorry.

Kim, glad you've resolved your panko issues! It can be a bit tricky to work with at first, because it doesn't behave the way regular breadcrumbs do.

Janel, your son has the right idea. I feel the same way about chocolate.

This looks sooo good! I'm definitely going to have to try panko.

Hi Lydia, just a small correction: The 'ko' of panko is not 'child', but 'powder' (the kanji character is 粉 not 子). Panko literally means 'bread powder'.

Dani, I hope you do try it, especially with fish -- so much lighter than traditional bread crumbs.

Maki, thank you so much. I'm making the correction in the post.

I just came back from a half-way-around-the- state trip to buy panko and finally a bottle of shao wine when it dawned on me to ask: what is so hard about cooing with the panko? Im planning on making this tonight....any special tricks are welcome :)

p.s. forgot to say that shopping in a an Asian market is always an experience. For instance, the local supermarket maybe if you are lucky has to types of soy....the asian markets....rows and rows. Panko was the same. There were at least two shelves worth of choices. I got the one whose packaging looked the least intimidating HAHAHA

I love to use panko, and this recipe sounds homey and delicious - perfect for a crisp fall night.

I'm really into replacing bread crumbs with panko. such great crunch! lovely looking fish!

I'll have to try panko for baking my faux fried chicken. I traditionally use seasoned (but unsweetened) corn flakes, but will definitely give panko a try!

Milton, panko isn't difficult; it just cooks differently than the bread crumbs you're probably used to, because it's a flake rather than a crumb. Hope you had fun shopping at the Asian markets. I always do!

Lynda, it all depends on getting great fish. Hope you have a good fishmonger; it makes all the difference.

Bren, you can make the substitution in many dishes, especially with fish.

Sandie, I'd imagine the panko would give your chicken a crispier crust. Let me know how it comes out.

I must have done something wrong. No crunch here! I'll try again next week and report back on any progress. Outside of the crunch, it was a delicious tasting meal. thank you

Lydia, I pretty much love fish made in any way, but this crisp crusted fish will become a favorite, for sure!

LMBO! Girl, I meant bread crumbs, not corn flakes!! I must have been looking at box in my mom's kitchen when I wrote my comment! Hilarious!!

Hi Lydia ! I just made those yesterday and the fish was delicious ! Panko flakes are the best ! Thanks

Fabulous fish dish! Did it with cod. Big winner.

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