As I upload this pre-written post I want to take a moment to mention the horrific earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan earlier today. I am very relieved to learn that my friends on Shikoku are safe, but my thoughts and best wishes go to everyone who was and still is affected by this disaster. The Japanese are some of the most resilient people I know who go out of their way to care for strangers and loved ones alike. I have no doubt they will get through this tragedy, but could still use any and all help we can provide – please consider donating to the American Red Cross’s Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund!
I have to tell you, I was very excited to make these babies. It had been a while since I cooked anything Japanese (I don’t count my usual rice bowls) and I was having my family over for dinner. While pretty adventurous overall, my posse still has their limits. Raw fish is not an option, anything “fishy” in general is rejected by the younger members of the family, and tofu is left untouched. Some favorites of theirs that I have yet to attempt are: 天ぷらうどん (tempura udon), カレーライス (curry rice), and, of course, ラーメン (ramen). The first two dishes are most definitely on my “to cook” list, but after tasting the absolute genius that is fresh Japanese ramen I don’t think I could ever do it justice. Even in my very Asian-influenced foodie town, where you can now find such yummy treats as mochi ice cream, aloe soda, and even daifuku, I have yet to taste a bowl of ramen as good as the cheapest bowls in Japan. It is an art, people, and if I were ever given a last meal it would be a giant serving of authentic とんこつラーメン (tonkotsu ramen).
But let’s get back on track since this post isn’t about tonkotsu ramen, as much as I wish it were, haha. In my defense, if you haven’t yet tried korokke of any kind you’re in for a treat. Based off the French dish croquette, it may not blow your mind the way the perfect bowl of ramen does, but you can’t go wrong with these crispy-on-the-outside-gooey-on-the-inside little balls of love. You can make korokke out of almost anything, the most popular kinds being filled with chicken, pork, or kabocha (Japanese pumpkin). Once again I substituted butternut squash for the pumpkin and even my brother who doesn’t like squash gobbled these up as soon as they hit the plate. I still need to work on my presentation skills with Japanese food – true korokke looking something like this – but they tasted like the real deal, so it was a good first attempt.
かぼちゃコロッケ (Kabocha Korokke)
(adapted from Let’s Cook Japanese Food! by Amy Kaneko)
½ kabocha or butternut squash, cut into 1-2″ chunks*
1 C low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
1 T unsalted butter
½ yellow onion, minced
2 T soy sauce
2 T Kewpie-brand mayonnaise (see my 南瓜とマヨネーズ post)
pinch of salt
¼ t ground black pepper
1 C flour
1 large egg
2 C panko
canola or other neutral oil for deep-frying
Tonkatsu sauce for serving**
* Note: Leave the skin on if using kabocha (but remove any “warts”) and peel skin off if using butternut squash.
** Note: Tonkatsu sauce is a thick, sweet and spicy sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce that is used frequently in Japanese cooking. According to the source book “almost no one ever makes this sauce at home” and so you’ll need to buy it. I searched all my local grocery stores, Co-ops, and our single Asian market and was unable to find it. If anyone has a tried and true recipe for tonkatsu sauce, please let me know!
- In a saucepan, combine the squash pieces with broth. Place over medium heat, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the flesh is soft enough to mash – about 15 minutes.
- While the squash is cooking, melt better in a frying pan over Medium heat. When the butter begins to foam add the onion and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until the onion has become translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
- When the squash has finished cooking, drain well and transfer to a large bowl along with the onion. Using a potato masher or two forks, mash until fairly smooth with only a few small chunks visible. Add the soy sauce, mayo, salt, and pepper and mix well. Let the mixture cool a little before shaping and breading.
- Get three small shallow bowls ready and fill one with flour, the second with panko, and the third with the beaten egg. Also spread a little flour on a flat plate or tray. Next, dampen your fingers with a bit of water and mold the filling into little golf ball-sized rounds (there should be about 20), placing balls on the flour-dusted plate as they are formed.
- Fill a heavy-bottomed saucepan with oil until the oil is about 3″ deep. Heat to 350°F using a thermometer or test with a bit of panko: if the panko rises immediately, the temperature is hot enough.
- When the oil has reached temperature, dust the balls with flour (shake off excess), dip them in egg, and cover with panko before dropping them gently into the hot oil (the balls can also be covered and then frozen for later – see Beezer’s Notes below). Be careful not to crowd the pot and watch the korokke at all times as they cook fast! Fry until medium brown and crispy – about 2 minutes each fresh or 4 minutes each frozen. Using tongs or chopsticks remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Serve korokke hot and with tonkatsu sauce (if available) and Kewpie mayo, as desired. Leftovers can be eaten at room temperature the next day and are equally delicious.
This recipe is one of those I like to store away in my “good for everyone” folder. It is very adaptable, multicultural without seeming extreme to Western tastes, and is a party-friendly food: you can freeze bags of korokke in advance and then just fry them right out of the bag! If making in advance, bread the balls completely and then place on a rimmed baking sheet in the freezer. When the balls have frozen, transfer them to a plastic baggie and store for up to 3 months. I am definitely making them in advance next time since serving them hot from the stove meant I ate while cooking instead of at the table with the rest of the family.
As for the taste, my batch was very close to the real kabocha korokke I had often in Ehime. I missed the contrasting soft skin that comes with true kabocha (it also makes the dish more beautiful to look at, with those little flecks of green), but overall they were really tasty and everyone in the family was eating them faster than I could fry them up. On a technical note, I recommend freezing ahead of time not only for convenience, but also because the mixture itself was much softer than I anticipated and difficult to work with. Lastly, I’m wondering if I could get a crispy shell from baking frozen balls instead of deep-frying them, getting rid of the only unhealthy part of the recipe. Future dinner parties will have to see! 🙂
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥