Recipe: $1.80 | Per Serving: $0.23 | Yield: 16 Small Korokke
We are officially moved out of Japan. After a grueling packing experience, and a snowy delay in Tokyo, we’re now in Singapore (86ºF), visiting my sister, before heading off to the States. There are so many things that we will miss about Japan, but you know what’s near the top of the list? Japanese Conbini Food. AKA: convenience store food.
DUH. Did you think I was going to get mushy about my students and friends? Food is my first love. Some of our favorite convenience store food items include:
- Dark Chocolate Alforts: These are chocolate cookies covered with dark chocolate. HELLO.
- Onigiri: So many varieties! I am partial to: maguro tuna with wasabi, toro tuna with green onion, and cooked salmon. The fried rice ones and the grilled versions are also awesome.
- Oden Soup: It’s a salty brothy super flavorful soup that is available at convenience stores during the winter only. You get to choose your fillings. My favorites are hard boiled eggs and daikon radish. TRY THE DAIKON. Love it.
- Coal-Roasted Sweet Potatoes: They’re just better than all the other versions of sweet potatoes. Plus, Japanese sweet potatoes are yellow and starchy and not overly sweet. Cooked sweet potatoes for 100 yen? I love them.
- Korokke: Have you ever had a french croquette? It’s usually just mashed up potato (and maybe pork, onion, etc.), coated in bread crumbs and fried. Japan is really really good at frying things. You wouldn’t know it for their “healthy diet” reputation among other countries. These croquettes are so so good. My two favorites are the potato & pork, and the kabocha squash!
I’m not interested in tackling oden just yet, but I had to learn how to make korokke before leaving Japan. This version isn’t deep fried, so the korokke are not quite as perfect, but they’re a good substitute. I went with the super easy method of making these little guys with just onion and kabocha, but feel free to add bacon or spinach or even regular white potatoes.
I photographed the thick version, but I actually preferred when I made them a little smaller and thinner, for a better crispy-exterior-to-soft-interior ratio.
So, that’s it. The end of our Japanese journey. We’re really gone. We flew out at 9:30am on Tuesday morning with our entire lives in suitcases. (And in a box shipped to my parents’ house.) But before we gave away / packed up everything we own, I snapped this photo of our impossibly tiny Japanese kitchen!
Everything posted on this site from April 2015 – now was made in that little space! Using only a rice cooker, toaster oven, and two-burner gas stovetop. Those guys worked hard for us for almost a year, and I’m very grateful. I have no idea what kind of kitchen situation we’ll be working with in Baltimore, but it’s safe to say that we’ll have 4 burners and an oven! Fingers crossed for a kitchen island!
- 1 pound kabocha squash (about half a squash)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ½ onion, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- 2 eggs, whisked
- ⅓ cup Panko bread crumbs
- Fill a large pot with about 1-2 inches of water and place steamer basket inside (or on top - whichever style you have). Deseed the kabocha and place in pot. Cover with lid and bring water to a boil, then steam for 12-15 minutes, or until squash is very soft. (Keep an eye on it around 10 minutes - depending on the size of your pot, you may have to add more water.)
- While the squash is cooking, sauté the onions. Mince ½ an onion and sauté in 1 teaspoon of olive oil for about 5-8 minutes or until soft. (Optional - this is where you'd add the chopped bacon or other meat!)
- When squash is soft, place in a large bowl (or drain the water and use the same pot), and mash well. Stir in the sautéed onion, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Let cool if necessary (the mashing helps it cool a lot - plus my kitchen is FREEZING in winter!), and then form into 8 medium or 16 small ovals or circles, only about ½ an inch thick. (Optional: Place in fridge for 30 minutes to cool down and firm up before next step. I didn't find it to be necessary.)
- Whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl, then set up a dipping station by putting the flour, eggs, and Panko each in separate bowls. One by one, dip the croquettes in the flour, then the egg mixture, then the Panko, pressing more Panko on to coat the croquette.
- Stovetop: Heat 2 Tablespoons (per 6 croquettes) of oil in a large frying pan and fry for 3 minutes on each side. Add oil as necessary.
- Oven: Bake for 15-20 minutes on 450ºF. If possible, finish by broiling for 2 minutes on each side to get nice and crispy!