Strange Snacks of the World -- Mochi Croquettes
The sublime mochi croquette at EN (click to enlarge)
While rarely seen in restaurants, the croquette is central to homestyle Japanese cooking, as seen at the East Village restaurant Chiyono. The croquette probably originated in the Netherlands, but as made by moms all across Japan, features tidbits of meat or fish embedded in potato or other starch, then sculpted into balls or oblongs and deep fried. They are often served with a brown dipping sauce that's somewhere between Worcestershire and ketchup.
While few restaurants dare to diddle with croquettes in their simple perfection, a few have intrepidly done so, risking the disapprobation of croquette-loving comfort food aficionados everywhere. Luckily, the new wave croquette pictured above is superb: a conventional duck-dotted potato filling covered with rubbery cubes of rice starch (called "mochi," that's the kind of starch used to coat orbs of ice cream in a popular dessert), and then deep fried, making one of the strangest-looking but most scrumptious snacks. While you might expect to find it in the commissary of the star ship Enterprise, you can get one much closer, at EN Japanese Brasserie, 435 Hudson Street, 212-647-9196