This is great Japanese street food. Lots of cultures have similar snacks, but the Japanese do seem to do these particularly well. I made this batch with instant mashed potatoes, which is lazy, but super-fast and easy. If you take that route, use a little less milk or water than the instant-potato directions call for so your potatoes are a little thicker.
Making the needed ground meat sanshoku-bento style will add lots of flavor, but just simply browning the meat will taste great, too.
Other than that, this recipe includes how to make basic mashed potatoes. You’ll get about 7 or 8 large croquettes out of this batch.
What you’ll need:
- 2 large (about 1 pound) russet potatoes (or 4 oz dried mashed potatoes)
- 1T butter (omit if using instant potatoes)
- 0.5 cups milk (omit if using instant potatoes)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
0.5 large onion, minced
- 1T neutral oil
- 4 oz ground beef, pork or chicken, simply browned or cooked like this (or 4 slices bacon cooked to crisp, then roughly chopped)
- 1 or 2 eggs, beaten
- Panko (depends, but have about 2 cups on hand)
- Oil for deep-frying
- Tonkatsu or Worcestershire sauce—optional condiment
- Shredded lettuce or cabbage—optional condiment
Optional for the meat (if making sanshoku bento-style)
- 2T + 1t soy sauce
- 2T mirin
- 2T granulated sugar
- 1T sake
What to do:
If you’re making your own mashed potatoes from scratch, do this:
Start some salted water heating to a boil. Peel the potatoes and cut each of them into about 10 chunks.
When the water is boiling, add the potato chunks and boil them until they can easily be pierced with a paring knife or instant-read thermometer—about 15-25 minutes, depending on how you cut them.
When the potatoes are cooked, empty them into a colander so they can drain and cool. Set aside and cook the onions and meat.
Heat 1T oil in a fry pan and sauté the onions until soft. If you’re not making sanshoku-bento meat, add the ground meat to the pan and sauté until cooked through. Drain off the fat and let the meat cool.
If making sanshoku-bento meat, add the meat to the onion frypan, followed by the soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake. Mix and bring to a simmer. Let it cook at a strong simmer, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the liquids have cooked off. Drain off any extra fat. Set aside to cool.
If you’re using instant mashed potatoes, make them now. Set aside to cool after stirring in some salt and pepper. Remember to go a little lighter on the amount of liquid.
At this point you should have a frypan full of cooked meat/onions and either cooked potatoes or cooling instant mashed potatoes.
If making your own mashed potatoes, finish them now by adding the milk and butter to a saucepan. Heat until the butter has melted.
In a large bowl containing the potatoes, gradually add the milk/butter mixture and with a potato masher or electric hand mixer mash until no longer lumpy. Sir in some salt and pepper. If too hot to handle, let cool for a bit.
Add the ground meat/onions to the whichever type of mashed potatoes you made and mix to distribute evenly. Now you’re ready to form the croquettes.
Using your hands, form the croquets into oblong blobs, kind if like really big eggs. You should get about 7 or 8 croquettes from this recipe, depending on how large you make them. You can also make a lot more smaller ones, if you like; it’s up to you.
After you’ve formed all the croquettes, put them on a plate or tray, cover them and put them in the refrigerator to cool them down—maybe about 30 minutes.
While the croquettes are cooling, prepare to coat them with the panko. Beat an egg or two in a small, shallow bowl. Add a cup (you may need more, later) of panko to a different bowl, and set out a plate for the breaded panko to rest while waiting to be fried. At this point, you can pour the oil in your cooking vessel and get it ready to heat.
When the croquettes have cooled, start heating the cooking oil to 350 degrees. One at a time, roll each croquette in the beaten egg, coating it, then roll it into the panko covering the entire surface. Don’t be afraid to lightly press the panko into the potato. Set on a plate while waiting to cook them.
When the oil is heated, carefully lower—one at a time—2 to 3 croquettes into the oil. Let them cook for 2-4 minutes, gently moving them around in the oil. When they’ve turned golden brown, remove them from the oil and set on a cooking rack. Then do the next batch.
When they’re all cooked, serve warm with shredded lettuce or cabbage and tonkatsu or Worcestershire sauce.