Shibuya Honey Toast: The Japanese Dessert You Should Know About

Bread is one of the earliest processed foods that humans prepared. According to NPR, there's evidence that our ancestors 14,000 years ago were already baking this culinary staple. It's seen in one form or another in almost every culture and in nearly every meal — including dessert.

There are plenty of options if you're looking for a bread-based sweet treat. You've obviously heard of the dessert for breakfast all-star French toast. Another yeasty classic is bread pudding, in which torn pieces of bread are soaked in a mixture of sugar, eggs, and milk and then baked.

But if you want to expand beyond the tried-and-true gluten-filled desserts, Shibuya honey toast may be precisely what you're searching for. Essentially, the sweet treat — also known as brick toast, per Japan Wireless — is made by turning the interior of a bread loaf into toasted sugary goodness. Epicurious explains the sweetened bread is then stuffed back inside the crust and finished off with decadent toppings. (Think of it like a Panera bread bowl, but instead of broccoli cheddar soup, it's sugary pieces of bread served out of your gluten-y receptacle.)

Origins of Shibuya honey toast

Shibuya honey toast gets its name from the Tokyo neighborhood in which it originated, Shibuya, which is known as a bustling commerce center, popular with young people. Japan Guide says it's common for the next hot Japanese fashion or cultural trends to come from the area, so it's no surprise that the country's decadent spin on milk toast would emerge from that neck of the woods. 

The sweet treat is credited to local karaoke chain Pasela Resort Shibuya, according to Japan Wireless, where its 10 brick toast offerings are among the most sought-after dishes on the menu. Other Japanese cafes have created their own spins on the dish, like Miyabi, which uses a Danish bread that requires 11 hours of baking time. 

However, the sugary creation is popular well beyond the island nation it was created in. Saveur explains that casual restaurants and cafes in Taiwan and Singapore also serve up the treat, which, at its gargantuan size, is perfect to share with friends.

How Shibuya honey toast is made

Despite its impressive presentation, Chopstick Chronicles says Shibuya honey toast is actually quite simple to make. The treat is most often prepared with milk bread, which Saveur says has an extra-smooth texture that stands up to being fried, though any unsliced, soft white bread variety will suffice.

The sweet treat is made by slicing a square portion of bread out of a loaf, leaving a border of crust. The soft bread removed from the center of the loaf is then further cut into small cubes.

Now, this is where the "honey" part comes in: the bread cubes and interior of the bread "box" are coated in the sweet, sticky ingredient and then baked. (Some recipes, such as The Fork Bite's, swap the honey for ingredients like butter and vanilla extract, but you end up with similar sweet, crispy results.) After baking, the bread bites are combined with other fillings and stuffed back into the carved-out loaf before being crowned with whatever toppings you desire.

Shibuya honey toast is customizable

In addition to the bread and honey, an essential part of Shibuya honey toast is its decadent and fun fillings and toppings. From adding candy bar pieces to combining the cubes with a range of fruits to topping it all with ice cream or chocolate sauce, the possibilities are endless (via Chopstick Chronicles).

One typical preparation, according to Saveur, is combining the toasted bread with berries macerated in sugar and topping it all with ice cream and even more honey. MyRecipes recommends alternating between layers of bread croutons and different types of berries and then garnishing with vanilla ice cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cookies like Oreos are another common garnish, and people get creative with ice cream choices too, using varieties like matcha to cap off their honey toast (via Honest Food Talks).

No matter what toppings you find on your Shibuya honey toast, expect it to be served with a steak knife (via The Fork Bite). The dish tends to be quite the spectacle and is normally shared between two or three people.

Variations on Shibuya honey toast

Fortunately, you don't have to live in or travel all the way to Asia to try Shibuya honey toast for yourself, as the dish — or variations on it — can be found globally.

Korea has its own version of the sweet treat, notes Honest Food Talks. The variety is smaller and uses a thick slice of sandwich bread instead of a full loaf of milk bread. However, the biggest difference is that making Korean honey toast doesn't require scooping out the inside of the bread. Instead, the dish is made by cutting four total incisions (two horizontal and two vertical) that don't go all the way through the bread. Honey is then poured into those openings before the entire bread block is baked and then topped with additions like cinnamon, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce.

Kirbie Cravings explains Taiwanese honey toast is made similarly to the Korean iteration — except the bread is coated in a mixture of butter, condensed milk, and custard before baking. Hawaii also has a take on the dessert, which uses Hawaiian bread in place of milk or sandwich bread (via TripAdvisor).