We all know pretty much what croquettes are, but what really is their story?
A croquette is a small breadcrumbed fried food roll containing, usually as main ingredients, mashed potatoes or ground meat (veal, beef, chicken, or turkey), shellfish, fish, cheese, vegetables, and mixed with béchamel or brown sauce, and soaked white bread, egg, onion, spices and herbs, wine, milk, beer, or any of the combination thereof, sometimes with a filling, e.g. sautéed onions, mushrooms, or boiled eggs (Scotch eggs). The croquette is usually shaped into a cylinder, disk, or oval shape, and then deep-fried. The croquette (from the French croquer, “to crunch”) gained worldwide popularity, both as a delicacy and as a fast food.
The truth is that every nation had its own recipes and variations but the French are the ones who get the credit as they were the first to make a written recipe of this product, in 1691 by the chef of the French King Louis XIV and using ingredients such as truffles, pastries and cream cheese.
Mashed potato-filled croquettes are often served as a side dish in winter holiday meals, such as Christmas. In fast food cuisine, varieties exist without potatoes, but with cheese, beef, or goulash, often in a filling based on béchamel sauce.
Belgium: Almost every restaurant offers kroketten/croquettes as a side dish, and when served this way, they always mean the variety filled with mashed potatoes. As the ubiquitous main dish in Belgian restaurants, croquettes are completely different from the potato filled variety served as a simple side dish. The two most popular traditional Belgian croquettes have a thick and creamy bechamel filling mixed with grey shrimps “garnaalkroketten/croquettes de crevettes” or cheese “kaaskroketten/croquettes de fromage”. Most menus offer both either as a starter or a main course. You’ll find croquettes served almost everywhere in Belgium and the quality comes down to the filling. As a main dish they are usually served with a salad, fried parsley and frites. More adventurous chefs have experimented with the classic formula, adding endives, asparagus, goat’s cheese or beer to their fillings.
Japan: A relative of the croquette, known as korokke ( コロッケ ) is a very popular fried food, widely available in supermarkets and butcher shops, as well as from specialty korokke shops. Generally patty-shaped, it is mainly made of potatoes with some other ingredients such as vegetables (e.g. onions and carrots) and maybe less than 5% meat (e.g. pork or beef). It is often served with tonkatsu (とんかつ) sauce. Cylinder-shaped korokke are also served, which more closely resemble the French version, where seafood (prawns or crab meat) or chicken in white sauce (ragout) is cooled down to make it harden before the croquette is breaded and deep-fried. When it is served hot, the inside melts. This version is called “cream korokke” to distinguish it from the potato-based variety. It is often served with no sauce or tomato sauce. Unlike its French cousin, croquettes made mainly of meat are not called korokke in Japan. They are called menchi katsu (メンチカツ), short for minced meat cutlets.
In Italy, crocchette (named in the south as crocchè) are made mainly with crushed potatoes or vegetables, like aubergines (crocchette di melanzane). They originate from Naples and Sicily, and are served as antipasti in the pizzerie all around Italy.