Saturday, October 27, 2007


From The Star

Preserving culture and tradition through unique snack


THE croquette, which is a snack with meat or vegetable base encased with breadcrumbs and deep-fried, may be a French invention.

This is how we do it: (right) Serena making the croquettes with her daughter Renita’s help.

But over the years, through colonisation, word of mouth and cultural influence, the recipe has spread to many countries.

The ingredients have gone through many changes thanks to the different countries that adapted the recipe to its convenience.

At Serena Djatnika’s home, the snack is made during major or minor celebrations, or sometimes just for tea.

Djatnika, an Indonesian who is married to a Malaysian, said, the croquette was brought to Indonesia during the Dutch colonisation and ever since had become part of Indonesian cuisine.

“It had probably started off with the Indonesians working in Dutch kitchens. They picked up the recipe from them and it had stayed over the years because it’s good.

“In my family, we have had the recipe for years; handed down from generation to generation.

“I learnt the recipe from my mother,” said Djatnika who lives at Taman Aman, Petaling Jaya with her husband and four children.

The retired businesswoman said that her early exposure to making the croquettes was when she helped out her maids at the kitchen.

“My father was with the foreign ministry and we used to travel from country to country. So when we had parties, I helped out in the kitchen and that's how I remember making the croquettes,” she said adding that she has yet to come across croquettes or anyone making it in Malaysia.

Simple yet delicious, the dish is made from finely minced chicken, canned mushrooms and onions.

The best combination: The croquettes are usually eaten with gherkin mustard.

Other ingredients include flour, ideal milk, full cream milk, powdered nutmeg, salt, pepper, and Lea & Perrins (L&P) Sauce.

Chicken, mushrooms and onions are fried in butter, then salt and pepper is added and finally the L&P sauce.

Separately, the flour is roasted slowly and milk is added. Once the mixture is blended well, the chicken combination is added and mixed well with some nutmeg.

Ready for action: Dipped in egg, the croquettes are coated with bread crumbs before they are fried.

Using hands, cylinders of about 8cm long are formed with the dough, then each cylinder dipped in egg whites and coated in breadcrumbs before they are deep-fried.

“It is served with pickle made from mustard and gherkins,” she said when StarMetro visited her home for a cooking demonstration.

Helping Djatnika was her daughter Renita Che Wan who had also learnt the recipe from her mother.

Renita said, she and her sister picked up the recipe from their mother when they were teenagers.

“The tradition has to carry on. If my mother didn't make the effort to learn the recipe from my grandmother, it wouldn't have come to me,” said Renita.

The other snack: Pastels, the Indonesian version of curry puffs with beef and egg filling.

Served along with the croquettes was another Indonesian traditional tea-time treat called Pastel - something like curry puff, but only with finely chopped beef, carrot and green beans filling.

“Curry puffs are on the spicier side, the Pastel is a little sweeter because comparatively, Indonesian cuisine is milder,” explained Djatnika as she served us some Indonesian tea.

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