Panko breadcrumbs are a special type of light breadcrumb used in Japanese cooking. They are made from crustless white bread. Unlike other types of breadcrumbs, panko cannot be made properly by the home cook.
According to legend, panko was invented when Japanese soldiers in the field, hungry for bread, placed dough on their tank batteries and allowed the heat to cook it. Now, the dough is allowed to rise twice and then electrocuted in special ovens. The resulting loaves are allowed to air dry overnight, then are cut into long crumbs.
Panko, whose name means "bread child" in Japanese, is prized by cooks because it is lighter and crispier than other types of breadcrumbs and doesn't absorb fats as readily.