What’s in my potato patties? 2 kinds of potatoes for taste and texture, fried shallots for savoury sweetness, a can of tuna for substance and fennel seeds for a nice pop of anise flavour.

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These are similar to potato patties (perkedel/begedil) sold at Indonesian and Malaysian food stalls that sell ‘rice dishes’ -there is a display of all the freshly cooked dishes for sale in a window display case and you point to what you would like to have with your plate of rice. Find a good stall and you will be a regular customer. The potato patties are also served on top of a bowl of chicken soup called ‘Soto Ayam’. The savoury clear chicken broth seasoned with spices and herbs like coriander seeds, cumin, lemongrass, tumeric and galangal, tops shreds of chicken, bean sprouts, yellow noodles or rice cakes (ketupat) and is garnished with coriander leaves and fried shallots. One of my favourite soupy dishes as it is quite light. There is always the option of eating them as a snack with some chilli sauce. But, they must be included in your menu if you intend to serve them up at a dinner party as part of an Indonesian or Malaysian meal. It just won’t look complete or fancy enough without it.

That’s a shot of what was served at a recent dinner party of mine. See the Tuna Potato Patties there?  I’m working my way through posting all the dishes you see there.

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At its simplest, perkedel/begedil, is just mashed potato with perhaps some chopped cilantro and/or cumin seeds. Sometimes a little meat is added. Then you could add garlic, spices,… you add what you think will taste good in it really. I like my recipe because it requires no egg to bind the potato dough. That’s important because not only can the potato patty hold its shape without a raw egg, more importantly, each patty can be fried in less than a minute with no fear that there are uncooked ingredients within the patty. That’s a double bonus of quick cooking and assurance that there is no risk of salmonella.

Asianized Tuna Potato Patties

Prep: 30 minutes 
Cook: ~1 – 2  minutes per batch 
Inactive:
Level: Easy
Makes: ~20 patties (1.5″[4cm] sized)
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Taste best freshly fried but will keep refrigerated for 2 days.

Ingredients

350g Starchy potatoes*
350g Waxy potatoes*
1 tin canned tuna in oil**
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds OR cumin seeds
3/4 cup fried shallots***
1 egg beaten
~ 2 cups neutral tasting oil for frying
* I use an equal percentage of Starchy potatoes and Waxy Potatoes for flavour and texture. If you choose to use only one variety of potato, buy Waxy Potatoes. Starchy potatoes will just fall apart in the frying pan. For more about potatoes and examples of Starch and Waxy Potatoes and how to identify them, please scroll down to my ‘Tips’ section.
**  Do not use water packed tuna. Oil packed ones are not only tastier, they help keep the potato patties moist.
***
Buy the ready fried ones.  The shallots that I use are the small purple coloured onions which are very sweet. I like those from Thailand as they are sweeter and fried to perfection. 

Method

Toast the fennel/cumin seeds
1. Heat up the frying pan that you will be using to fry the potato patties over medium-high heat. When you think it is hot enough, flick some water into the pan, if it sizzles immediately, it’s hot enough. Wipe dry if necessary and toss in the seeds.
2. Stir the seeds constantly, they should smell fragrant fairly quickly. Stir a few more seconds or until the seeds are toasted -they will turn a slightly darker shade. Turn off stove, transfer contents out of pan to cool or they will burn if left in the pan.

Boil and mash potatoes
1. Peel potatoes, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let the potatoes cook through until a skewer inserted through slides in easily. Then, drain.
2. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or the back of a fork. You want some small sized lumps as it provides a good textural contrast.

Mixing ingredients and forming patties
1. In a large mixing bowl, add the mashed potatoes, toasted fennel/cumin seeds, salt and pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning but under salt it at this point as the can of tuna might be exceptionally salty.
2. Drain off the oil, add the tuna, flaking it roughly and fold into potato mash. Do not over work it in. Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Gather a golf ball sized of potato mash and form into a golf ball.  Then press it down to flatten into ~1″ (2.5cm) thickness. Smoothen out any large cracks on the surface. Set aside. You should have ~20 patties.

Frying
1. This process is going to be quicker than you think. In the frying pan, heat up ~ 2 cups of oil, the oil should run half way up the sides of the patties (so I estimate ~1/2″ – 3/4″ [1.3cm – 2cm] depth of oil). Oil temperature should be ~360F (180C).
2. Dip each patty quickly into the beaten egg and straight into the heated oil. Do not over crowd the pan or the temperature will drop too much and the patties will fall apart.
3. Some of the coating of beaten eggs will ribbon into thin threads, once egg threads set, ~20 -30 seconds, flip the patty over and fry the reverse side for another 20 – 30 seconds. No need to cook further as everything in the patty had been pre-cooked.
4. Drain on a cooling rack to drain off most of the oil. Thereafter, transfer to draining papers/kitchen paper towels briefly to blot off more oil. Don’t sit the patties indefinitely on draining papers/kitchen paper towels as they will just be sitting in a pool of oil and dampness. Better to transfer them back on cooling racks. Then, when you are ready to eat, blot off excess oil on clean sheets of draining papers/kitchen paper towels.
5. Serve these patties as part of an Indonesian or Malay rice meal with a protein and some vegetables. Chilli sauce of some sort always goes well with these patties.

Tips

Potatoes can be labelled under 3 broad categories* : (1) starchy/floury (2) waxy (3) all-purpose/general-purpose
* However, agreement over which category some variety of potatoes fall under varies.

(1) Starchy/floury potatoes (eg. Russets, King Edward, Idaho)
As its name implies, these have a high starch and lower moisture content. Depending on how you cook them, generally, they do not hold their shape well after cooking. For instance, you won’t use them in a curry dish, a gratin or in a potato salad. They are great for mash, french fries, for my Egg & Gluten Free Grated Potato Pancakes 

potato pancakes

and baked (either whole or cut into large chunks for roasting). Don’t use all starchy potatoes for my Tuna Potato Cutlets/Patties as they might not hold its shape making frying difficult. If you must choose only one potato to use for the patties, use either all-purpose potatoes or if you must, waxy potatoes.

How to identify them? They usually have a thicker, darker and rougher skin. Most times, there will still be a dusting of earth on them.

(2) Waxy potatoes (eg. New Potatoes, Fingerlings, Nadine, Charlotte)
These have a lower starch content and hold its shape well. They don’t mash well at all (turns kind of gluey) and are often used for boiling as it keeps it shape. Great for curries, stews and salads. Some varieties bake well too.
How to identify? They usually have thinner and smoother skins. Often looks ‘cleaner’ compared to starchy/floury potatoes.

(3) All-purpose/general-purpose potatoes (eg. Desiree, Yukon Gold)
This category covers potatoes that falls in between the 2 categories. So if in doubt as to which potatoes to use in a recipe, I would reach for these. Now a days, the better brand of potato would tell you what kind of cooking they are good for.
How to identify them? Tricky because they look like a mix of the 2 categories. They are often mid size and aren’t as large as for instance a Russet Potato.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

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