“Comfort food” usually means uncomplicated, nostalgic home dishes, often bringing back childhood memories. Sometimes, however, a new culinary discovery feels instantly homely and comforting, almost like a regular meal from a previous life. This is exactly what happened when I tasted these croquettes. They are simple, contain almost exclusively Western ingredients (apart from the Japanese panko, which in my opinion is at the top in the world of bread crumbs) and are so universally enjoyable, I cannot imagine anyone hating them. Even their cute shape somehow makes me smile and feel relaxed.
The name “korokke” (コロッケ) comes from the French word “croquette” and this dish first appeared in the Japanese cuisine at the beginning of the XXth century. Korokke are based either on white sauce or potatoes and contain such additional ingredients as ground meat, mushrooms, vegetables or shrimps. My first potato korokke bought in a Japanese fast food shop was bland and completely uninteresting. I didn’t think for a second of preparing anything similar at home. This was before I saw the version made by Nami (Just One Cookbook), the never-ending source of marvellous Japanese dishes. Nami’s appealing photos didn’t lie: her korokke have absolutely nothing in common with the bland pretenders I remembered. Thank you, Nami, for the umpteenth delight you have made me discover!
Since I have a very annoying habit of modifying even the perfect dishes, I did something I have been doing for years with mushroom and beef dishes: I added a bit of ground cumin. Its taste is not recognisable, but like in the case of my Mushroom Soup, it adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi I am very proud of. I have also added more mushrooms and vegetables, so that they make at least half of the korokke mixture. As I have already mentioned, I often prepared korokke with button mushrooms instead of shiitake. The result was different, but by no means worse. I have skipped the raw egg since, surprisingly, my patties kept perfectly well together without any “gluing” agent. Click here to see Nami’s original recipe.
TIPS: Korokke can be prepared one or two days in advance, kept in the fridge and then taken out one hour before breading and frying process. If you use button mushrooms, double the amounts, since they are not as aromatic as shiitake.
Preparation: 1 h 30 – 2 h
Ingredients (serves 4):
1 kg potatoes
400 g ground beef
100 g shiitake or 200 g button mushrooms
1 big onion
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
10 tablespoons flour
20 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
oil for deep frying
Chop finely the carrots and the onion.
Heat a small amount of oil in a pan, add the onions, fry them for a couple of minutes and then add the carrots together with the mushrooms.
When mushrooms start changing their colour, add the beef, salt, pepper and cumin.
Cook until the carrot pieces are soft.
In the meantime cook the potatoes. Peel them and mash them with a fork or with a potato masher, leaving some chunks.
Combine the potatoes with the vegetables. Taste the mixture and season once more if needed.
Shape flat round patties (mine had a 6 cm diameter), coat them first in flour, then in the raw egg and then in panko.
Deep fry in small batches (they should be able to “swim” easily) until golden brown. (I put some panko in the oil and if it starts making bubbles and fried immediately, it means the oil is hot enough).
They are very good served with the Japanese tonkatsu sauce (Bull Dog).