Erwin Tjahyadi and older brother Eric were frequently reminded of Dutch influence while growing up in Surabaya on the Indonesian island of Java. The Netherlands occupied the Southeast Asian archipelago for over three centuries, until 1945, and many monuments and buildings still mark colonization in the coastal city. Dutch traditions also impacted the food, including a beloved dish with unique local flourishes that the brothers ate with family members before or after childhood church services: krokets.
At Bone Kettle in Pasadena, the Tjahyadi brothers spotlight more Indonesian flavors than at their pair of pan-Asian restaurants called Komodo. Krokets made Bottle Kettle’s menu this July. Now their family (and customers) can enjoy this savory treat on a regular basis.
Krokets are mashed potato fritters typically stuffed with either ground chicken or beef, though many families incorporate random leftovers. Every family has a different recipe, though none involve pork. That meat is verboten due to Indonesia’s Muslim majority.
Erwin is a youthful 33-year-old chef with a weightlifter’s build who worked at prestigious establishments like George’s at the Cove and Hotel Bel-Air before launching the Komodo Truck with his brother in 2009. They now have two Komodo restaurants, Bone Kettle in Pasadena, and hip-hop themed Supa Coffee in Beverlywood.
We meet in Bone Kettle’s kitchen to prepare krokets and he waxes nostalgic about the dish. “One of the things I really love about krokets is the texture, where you get the creaminess from the beef and softness from potato, and outside is just a shell from hard panko crust,” he says. “That brings back a lot of memories.”
Indonesians tend to favor Russet potatoes for their krokets, but Erwin prefers Kennebec. This varietal is “softer, much more buttery, and a good complement when you mix it with a little butter and egg,” both ingredients that aren’t typically used in Indonesian cooking.
Erwin peels, smashes, and bakes the potatoes. After cooling, he drops the tender results into a stainless steel mixing bowl and cracks one egg. “My grandma’s recipes used egg whites, but I like to use the whole egg,” Erwin says. “It’s richer to get that yolk in there.”
He adds Kosher salt since that type isn’t too coarse or high in sodium. “It’s mellow, but also blends well with the potato and egg,” he says. A bit of corn starch binds everything.
Next, Erwin adds clarified butter to make the mixture “a little creamier, softer on the palate.” As humankind knows, “Butter never hurts anything.” That said, his family’s recipe didn’t include butter, which is a premium, upper class ingredient. Just like beef.
Bone Kettle’s filling calls for Laura’s 92% Lean Beef. Erwin adds shallots, garlic, brunoised carrots, salt, pepper, and a savory barrage of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and mushroom dashi. Shredded ube (purple yam) provides color, sweetness, and texture. A bit of corn starch helps to bind ingredients, prevent drying, and aid in producing a fine consistency. Erwin sear the blend thoroughly until it browns in a sauté pan.
Erwin molds the potato by hand, tapping to flatten in his palm until the consistency becomes clay-like. Before stuffing with meat, he tastes to see if the potato needs more salt. Add more salt if necessary. He places the meat inside the potato and gently folds.
Traditionally, Indonesian kroket is Twinkie-size, with about four ounces of potato and two ounces of filling, though the 2:1 ratio can apply to smaller, kid-friendly sizes.
Erwin rolls each kroket in bread flour, followed by an egg wash, and then coats with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). A 4-6 minute bath in bubbling oil at 350 degrees Fahrenheit produces a final product with beautiful golden color.
He plates three krokets on a decorative banana leaf that’s washed for the sake of cleanliness, and so the krokets don’t slide out of place.
Erwin garnishes each trio with pickled pearl onions and pickled green Thai chiles. “Some different islands put it right in the middle of the meat and roll it,” he says. “When you deep-fry, it gets that chile flavor inside, but sometimes it gets too spicy and can be really intense.” Bone Kettle’s version provides customers the option for spice.
Bone Kettle’s krokets come with two different dipping sauces: a spicy, umami-tinged hoisin, sambal oelek, and peanut sauce to cut richness, and cooling avocado puree.
Over 25 years ago, the Tjahyadi family immigrated to Southern California as refugees. After facing serious adversity, Erwin and Eric have become successful entrepreneurs. Circumstances changed considerably, but simple comforts like krokets remain constant.
- 7lb – 800g approximately 7 medium potatoes (frying type)
- 5 tbsp -70g butter
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cups – 200g all purpose flour
- 1½ cups – 200g breadcrumbs
- Nutmeg to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3lb – Laura’s 92% Lean Beef
- 1½ cups – frozen peas and carrots
- 4 tbls – Sugar
- 3 tbls – Kosher salt
- 2 tbls – fine minced garlic and shallots
- 1½ cups – Corn starch slurry
- Peel potatoes and boil until they are fork tender (20-30 minutes).
- Strain potatoes and set aside to cool down
- When the potatoes are cool, add butter, eggs, nutmeg, and salt pepper to taste.
- Mash them until they are mix together
- For the Fillings:
- On a hot large pan, sauté the ground beef (making sure they are broken apart and mashed through) until the liquid evaporates.
- Add minced shallots, garlic, sugar, and salt. (adjust seasoning if needed) cook 5 minutes more in a low heat until all the flavors combine.
- Add the frozen vegetables, and the corn starch slurry. Mix well and place on a clean large plate, set aside to cool down
- For the Kroket:
- Place bread crumbs, flour, and egg wash in three clean bowls (separately).
- With a 3.5oz scooper, scoop the cooled mashed potato to form a ball. Push down on the center of the bowl with a thumb, deep enough but not all the way through
- Put inside 1.5oz of cooled down ground beef filling right in the hollow center, and cover the top with more mashed potato
- Place the complete kroket on the flour first to coat, second drench the coated potato ball into the egg washed, third place to potato ball on the bread crumb. Repeat this process until is done.
- Heat up frying oil to 350F. Place the kroket ball 4 at a time for about 4-6 minutes (until golden brown). Remove from the oil and let it rest before biting into it.
For dipping sauce, we use diced bird’s eye chiles (1/4 cup), 1 cup of hoisin sauce, and 1/4 cup of sambal oelek. Mix together.