What is it?
Panko is just the fancy, Japanese word for breadcrumbs. These crumbs are ground more coarsely from bread that tends to be lighter making for larger, crunchier and sometimes fluffier results when used in a recipe.
Sometimes made from crustless bread, this variety of panko can be lighter in color, while darker panko flakes are derived from the entire loaf.
What is it used for?
In Japanese cuisine, panko is used in a deep fried pork dish called tonkatsu - basically a breaded pork cutlet. It is also used in numerous Western dishes in place of traditional bread crumbs. Many restaurants around town including Pappadeaux use it as a coating for fried shrimp. Our favorite is Christie's.
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Where can you buy it in Houston?
Any large supermarket, Asian market or specialty food store like Central Market.
Pork Tonkatsu, Courtesy of About.com