CRAB CREAM CROQUETTES
DIFFICULTY: Can be fiddly, but not difficult
These little nuggets of seafoody goodness aren’t especially Japanese in terms of flavour or technique, and yet they’re among the more common izakaya (boozers with food) menu items. Which makes sense, really – they’re good for sharing, good with sake, and just plain good.
You can use any kind of crab meat for this – including the fake stuff – but my recommendation for both value and flavour is a 50–50 mix of white and dark crab meat. Supermarkets and fishmongers often sell this premixed in little tubs. The dark crab meat gives a lovely, strong crab flavour.
KANI KURIMU KOROKKE
MAKES 16–20 CROQUETTES
- 60 g (2 oz / 1/2 stick) butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 6 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
- 450 ml (16 fl oz / 1 3/4 cups) full-fat (whole) milk
- 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
- 200 g (7 oz) crab meat (all white, all fake, or a mix of white, fake, and/or dark)
- pinch of salt
- pinch of freshly ground pepper
- small pinch of chilli powder
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 250 g (9 oz / scant 6 cups) panko breadcrumbs
- oil, for deep-frying – about 1 litre (34 fl oz / 4 cups)
- 1/2 bunch of chives, finely chopped, to garnish
- Ponzu or Tonkatsu Sauce, to serve
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Fry until soft, then whisk in the flour and cook on a low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until the roux becomes amber and aromatic. Add the milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, then add the crème fraîche or sour cream and bring to a low boil. Stir in the crab meat, salt, pepper and chilli powder, then taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
Keep cooking the white sauce for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until very thick. Pour out into a container, transfer to the fridge and leave to cool completely.
When the crabby béchamel is totally cold, it will solidify into a kind of thick paste. Rub a little oil into your hands, grab little blobs of the paste and shape into croquettes about 5 cm (2 in) long and 2 1/2 cm (1 in) across (Japanese croquettes are bigger and more oblong than typical Spanish croquetas).
Roll the croquettes in flour, 3 or 4 at a time, until completely coated. Dunk them in the beaten egg, then roll them in the panko to coat completely (tip: use a slotted spoon or fork to transfer them from the egg to the panko to keep your fingers from going gummy).
Place your croquettes on a tray and put back into the fridge for 15–20 minutes to firm up again before frying. If you’re not cooking these immediately, freeze them in a single layer on a tray – once hard, transfer them to a container and they will last in the freezer for several months.
Pour your oil into a very deep, wide saucepan or pot, to come no higher than halfway up the sides and, if cooking from the fridge, heat the oil to 180°C (350°F). If cooking from frozen, heat the oil to 160°C (320°F). Carefully drop the croquettes into the hot oil and fry for 6–7 minutes (longer from frozen) until the crust is golden brown. You may have to turn them over once during cooking to ensure even colour. Retrieve the croquettes with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Garnish with chives and serve with ponzu or tonkatsu sauce.
Recipes excerpted with permission from JapanEasy by Tim Anderson, published by Hardie Grant Books September 2017, RRP $29.99 hardcover.