Kabocha croquettes (kabocha korokke) is our family's fall favorite. Crispy on the outside and naturally sweet and savory on the inside, it's like a party in your mouth! These croquettes will disappear in no time.
Remove seeds and pith from the kabocha and cut into big chunks, about 2 inch (5 cm) pieces.
Set up the steamer (I use this steamer basket inside the dutch oven here). Steam kabocha for 20 minutes or until tender (enough that you can mash with fork) but don’t overcook.
While steaming the kabocha, mince the onion. Slice parallel to the grain, slice against the grain (image 1), cut into cubes (image 2), and chop into even smaller pieces (image 3).
Cut the bacon into small bits. For better texture, I like the bacon to be about ¼ inches (6 mm).
Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, and add the bacon. Cook until the onion is translucent, tender, and nicely brown. Set aside until the kabocha is done with steaming.
Remove the kabocha from the pot and let cool until you can touch (but still warm). Remove the skin using a knife or spoon. Kabocha skin is edible and you don’t have to remove it. However, your kabocha croquette will be dark in color instead of a bright orange color.
Transfer all the kabocha in a large bowl and mash with a fork.
Add the onion and bacon mixture to the mashed kabocha. Try to avoid adding excess oil, which could make the mixture too wet. Season with ½ tsp salt and ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper.
Combine well together. Using a cookie scoop, make it into ball shape. I can usually make 15-18 balls with ½ kabocha (1.5 lbs with seeds).
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes to kabocha balls become firmer.
Add 1 Tbsp water to the beaten egg. Coat kabocha balls in flour.
Then coat with egg mixture, and finally panko.
Cover with plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. During this time, the flour absorbs moisture. As a result, it’ll be less splatter in oil and the batter becomes sticker and won’t come off while deep frying. Also, if you deep fry the food when it's still warm, the steam inside the filling will get hot and try to escape, which will end up exploding in the hot oil.
When it’s almost 30 minutes, start heating up the oil to 340ºF (170ºC) in a pot. Insert the long chopsticks, and when you see small bubbles appear around them, it’s ready to deep fry the croquette. The filling of the croquette is cooked already, so all you need is to fry the coating until golden brown.
Transfer golden kabocha croquette to a wire rack or a plate lined with paper towel. Sprinkle some salt such as sea salt or Himalayan pink salt.
Once it’s cooled completely, you can put the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3 days and in the freezer for up to a month.