My Citizens – today the East Coast of the United States was walloped by an intense and snowy Nor’Easter, dropping nearly 2 ft. of snow on Boston in under 24 hours! Everywhere throughout the affected region, people are vociferously complaining on social media of the freezing temperatures, the mountains of snow and the need to fuel up as they brave the weather to go outdoors! Fortunately, few things are better for this exact purpose than a stick-to-your-ribs potato and meat croquette!
However…today, I am not just sharing any-old version of this classic comfort food recipe! No, today the Daimyo of Delicious is sharing nothing less than My own personal take on Korokke – the Japanese version of this world-favorite dish! Korokke (Japanese: コロッケ) is the Japanese name for a deep-fried yōshoku dish originally related to a French dish, the croquette. Korokke is made by mixing cooked chopped meat, seafood, or vegetables with mashed potato or white sauce, usually shaped like a flat patty, rolling it in wheat flour, eggs, and Japanese-style breadcrumbs, then deep-frying this until brown on the outside.
In 1887, the French croquette was introduced to Japan when France and Japan established formal diplomatic relations. It is thought that the korokke using mashed potatoes was invented because dairy processing technology had not been popularized in Japan at that time! The first mention of a “kuroketto” appear in cookery books from the Meiji era. Today, korokke can be found in almost every supermarket and convenience store in Japan and is enjoyed not only for its taste, but also its low cost.
In a typical Japanese fashion, the French word ‘croquette’ was ‘Japanified’ to ‘korokke’ – this has happened to many so-called loan words in Japanese and it is interesting that the word is lettered in katakana. Katakana is one of 4 Japanese alphabets typically reserved only for words adopted into the Japanese language from outside, or for ‘foreign’ things. It is the use of four different alphabets in written Japanese (and all of them can be used in a single, vertical sentence!) that contributed to My mild nervous breakdown in the early 1990’s when I was trying to learn written Japanese! Kidding/not kidding. 😉
There is also a dish called croquette in the Netherlands also, one of which is a white sauce-based type (these are bitterballen) and another which is a potato-based type. While it has been speculated that potato korokke might have originated in that potato-based type, it is unlikely as it was the year 1909 when the croquette was introduced from France to the Netherlands – it is not likely that the recipe was brought from the Netherlands to Japan, judging from the period that the dish first appeared and that it was already gaining popularity in Japan.
As noted in this excerpt from a very interesting article from food-touring.com:
Its history in Japan is not very precise. At first thought we conjectured that it may have been introduced along with tempura by the Portuguese in the mid 16th century. But it doesn’t appear to have been.
Most online sources put its introduction to Japan in the Meiji era (1869-1912). Apparently a recipe for korokke appears in an 1895 cookbook. Takaoka, a city in Gifu prefecture is making a bit of a claim as the place where where Japanese korokke started. There’s a local chain there promoting Takaoka korokke and they have a winter festival at their main temple where one of the featured foods is the daibutsu korokke (the big Buddha korokke).
According to the Takaoka Korokke (the chain restaurant) business website there is a reference in a newspaper dated 1900 of a western-style restaurant selling korokke – on the second floor to be exact. It makes a bit of sense as Takaoka was an important port during the early industrialization of Japan. Seems like things western could have been easily introduced there.
Moving into the Taisho era, there was a novelty hit called “The Song of the Korokke” in 1917. The song’s popularity led to a popularity of consumption. This hit simultaneously with the introduction and popularization of kare risu and other things from beyond Japan’s borders.
Interestingly, korokke became associated with typhoons in the 2000s, after a user on 2channel said they were eating some to prepare for an approaching typhoon, beginning a tradition that persisted on Japanese social media – you can see why I chose to share this recipe given today’s incredible Winter storm! They are sometimes sold wrapped in paper when you buy them as street food. When sandwiched between two slices of bread, they are called korokke pan (pan being ‘bread’ in Japanese), or korokke sando (‘sandwich’).
There are several different versions of these treats in Japan, as noted in this excerpt from an article I found on masterclass.com:
Korokke can be divided into two main styles: Flat patties of mashed potato and log-shaped korokke bound by a béchamel-like creamy white sauce. The most popular varieties of korokke include:
- Gyu korokke: This version of korokke is filled with mashed potato and ground beef.
- Kabocha korokke: Kabocha korokke is filled with kabocha squash, a Japanese winter squash similar to pumpkin.
- Yasai korokke: This type is filled with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.
- Kare korokke: Kare korokke is made with mashed potatoes flavored with Japanese curry powder.
- Kani kurimu korokke: This log-shaped variety is filled with crab meat bound together by cream sauce.
- Ebi kurimu korokke: This version is filled with shrimp and cream sauce.
- Kon kurimu korokke: Corn and cream sauce are the fillings for kon kurimu korokke.
They are popularly seasoned with a type of Worcestershire sauce that should be available at the table. At restaurants, chopsticks are used to cut off manageable pieces and eat the korokke. Less elegantly, it can also be acceptable to lift the entire piece with your chopsticks and take a bite out of it. If purchased at street vendors, korokke comes wrapped in a paper and can be hold in your hand while being consumed.
Korokke is found at many stores in Japan, including hot delis inside supermarkets, as well as bento shops, convenience stores, etc. However, many actually believe that the best place to buy them is in fact – wait for it! – butcher shops! They usually have a small deep-frying set-up in the corner of a shop and they sell them to customers as they fry – a smart move as the aroma attracts customers inside the store. Some freshly-made versions from butcher shops may in fact surpass home-cooking, at least according to many Japanese gourmets.
It will come to no surprise to long-standing members of TFD Nation that My version of this beloved Japanese recipe is far more complexly-flavored than the standard ‘breaded-and-fried meat-and-mashed-taters’ version found on a Tokyo street corner. Fear not – My version is firmly-rooted in tradition, and in fact is a kaleidoscopic mashup of 4 out of the 7 kinds of these croquettes – all in one sizzling and delicious patty that bears My trademark stamp of flavor complexity, eccentricity and savor in each bite!
First off – the Japanese are total texture fiends and unsurprisingly, they have a special word and texture technique used just for korokke interiors – it’s called ‘hoku hoku’ and thankfully, it can be easily achieved! After the potato is cooked and before you mash it, just be sure to drain the water from the potatoes, then put them back in the pot and shake them around to rough up the outsides. Trust Me – it makes for a truly special consistency that you really want to achieve in this dish!
While most of the street versions of this dish are only seasoned with salt and pepper, I have chosen to flavor the mashed potato mixture with a combination of Japanese curry powder, shiitake mushroom powder, finely-ground shrimp chips, shichimi seasoning and white miso! Both the umami factor and spice (not heat!) are truly off the chain with My special version of this delectable dish! For this dish, please do try and use cake flour to achieve the proper texture in the final product – this is My preferred brand.
I also add in some finely-ground or minced vegetables, including onion, carrot, scallion and daikon radish (or you can substitute fresh or canned water chestnuts) for texture and vitamins – you’ll also need true Japanese panko bread crumbs to give a proper crunch to the deep-fried patty! The ground beef should be 85% lean American Wagyu-style or at least from an organically-raised, grass-fed cow! As a dipping sauce, the classic accompaniment is Japanese tonkatsu sauce – A1 is an adequate substitute, if you must.
If you follow My shining path of gustatory glory, I promise to lead you and your lucky diners to culinary Nirvana – this dish comes together quite quickly despite My changes and I hope you see fit to share it with your family and guests at your earliest possible opportunity, Citizens!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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