Kaboccha, or Japanese winter pumpkin (squash), is a staple in Japanese cuisine. It appears in many different dishes but my favorite way to enjoy kaboccha is as a croquette, or in Japanese, korokke.
Traditional Japanese korokke is made with potatoes and is often mixed with ingredients such as ground beef, onions, corn or other vegetables, or curry seasoning.
Kaboccha korokke is made entirely of kaboccha or Japanese winter pumpkin and, in the case of this recipe, brown onions. It is seasoned simply with salt and pepper yet is bursting with flavor. It is breaded in panko crumbs, then fried. It can be enjoyed as is or can be dipped in a simple tonkatsu-style sauce.
My version of korokke dipping sauce is one my mom used to make for us and is a mixture of equal parts of bottled okonomiyaki sauce and ketchup. Okonomiyaki sauce is slightly sweeter than tonkatsu sauce, but the two can be used interchangeably for this recipe depending on what you have on stock or your preference in taste.
- 1 Japanese kabocha
- Canola cooking spray
- 1 - 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper, just a dash
- 1 small brown onion (or 1/2 medium brown onion)
- 1/2 tablespoon butter for sautéing onions (olive oil may be substituted)
- Additional salt and pepper to season kabocha mixture, to taste
- 1 tablespoons low-fat milk (2%) for kabocha mixture
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk for the egg wash
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup flour
- Canola oil for frying
- Optional dipping sauce: ketchup and tonkatsu or okonomiyaki sauce mixture (ratio 1:1)
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Wash kabocha, remove seeds and cut into wedges.
Line baking sheet(s) with foil and spray with canola cooking spray. Lay kabocha wedges on the sheets, lightly drizzle with olive oil, and gently season with salt and pepper.
Bake for 45 minutes or until tender. Allow kabocha to cool.
Meanwhile, finely dice the brown onion. Sauté in butter until browned. Set aside.
Once the kabocha has cooled. Gently spoon flesh of the squash into a bowl, separating it from the rind.
Discard rind. Add sautéed onions to the bowl and mash together with kabocha using a potato masher.
Gently season with salt and pepper to taste. Be sure to season with enough salt so that the korokke is sufficiently seasoned to eat on its own.
Add 1 tablespoon of milk and gently incorporate.
Place kabocha mixture in the refrigerator to cool completely. I found that working with the cold mixture is slightly easier than working with the warm mixture when rolling the kabocha korokke into balls. Don't worry, the mixture will be very soft and almost difficult to shape into a ball, but it's doable. And they will turn out great!
Set up a workstation: place kabocha balls on a plate, flour in a small deep dish, combine egg and a splash of milk in a second small deep dish, panko bread crumbs in a third deep dish. OPTIONAL: Season flour with a dash of salt and pepper. My mom often does this with anything that is breaded and adding an extra layer of flavor never hurts.
Dip kabocha balls in flour, next in the egg wash mixture, then coat with panko bread crumbs.
Heat canola or vegetable oil for frying in a medium pan to a temperature of 375 F.
- TIP: If you don't have a thermometer or want to use one, toss in a piece of panko bread crumb and if it quickly sizzles and floats to the top, your oil is ready.
Fry about 6 kabocha korokke at a time, about 1 to 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Allow kabocha korokke to cool on a plate lined with paper towels. I don't recommend draining the korroke on a wire rack as these korokke are soft.
Optional sauce: If you would like a simple dipping sauce on the side, trying mixing equal parts of ketchup and tonkatsu sauce. If not, you can drizzle tonkatsu sauce over the kabocha korokke, or you can do what we do which is to eat them plain, no sauce. They taste perfect on their own.