For the love of Bergedil (Deep-fried Potato Beef Croquettes)!
Potato. Every culture has its own way with it and if love is the universal language, then to me potato must be the universal food—so versatile, adaptable, nutritious, wonderful-tasting and accessible to people of all social classes. One has no excuse not to make the most of this ‘vegetable’ and turn it into the most beautiful accompaniment to a main, or, as I sometimes do, turn it into the main itself, such as a baked potato overflowing with glorious toppings.
Having the privilege of being born into the food mecca of Singapore before we moved here meant I was exposed to the ‘multicultural potato’. As much as I love my rosti and New York style fries, I grew up learning to love potatoes simmered to their soft melting centres in red, fiery spiced curries or as stir-fried strips to break up an oily mee goreng to give it pauses in between as well as an added texture. I also love it naked in an Asian salad of Gado-Gado drizzled with its peanut sauce gravy.
Of all the ways I love my potato, there is one that stands out and I would, if I may, attribute it to the two cultures that made the best of the potato: The French, who invented the ‘croquette’ in classical French cuisine, and the Malays who originated the amazing ‘Bergedil’, a fried potato croquette with minced beef, onions, spices and egg.
I first tasted bergedil at a Nasi Padang restaurant in Singapore when I was 19. I remember it because it was one of my first jobs during the school holidays (before leaving for Brisbane) and I had been an intern at one of those hipster graphic design/advertising agencies housed in a charmingly restored old shophouse along Ann Siang Hill full of FTs (i.e.’foreign talent’ or international human resource on working visas) before the term ‘FT’ was even coined.
One of the FTs, an American graphic designer by the name of MaryLou, had a crazy love of bergedil and would often get me to help her buy a takeaway lunch at a popular Nasi Padang restaurant nearby the office. She introduced me to my first bergedil and put me to great shame as I had not even known such a wonderful thing existed amongst the many great local foods reflecting our deep Malay heritage in Singapore.
I had my first bergedil with Ayam Panggang from the same restaurant and was hooked. A few years ago when we holidayed in Singapore, I made a pilgrimage to the same restaurant but was disappointed that the chef has left and the business may have been sold and changed hands. Nevertheless, the Ann Siang Hill area and surrounds is still a foodie’s haven today and I shall always have a soft spot for whatever is there as it remains an unforgettable part of my personal history.
These days I make my own bergedil at home, just another one of those things I make that has my husband thinking he is so relieved to have married me, hah. He loves it and so do my little wombats who can polish a few at a go.
My recipe is a little different in that I have added breadcrumbs to it (I think it gives it added hold and and a crunchier texture and also that it does not fall apart as easily), as well as some ground nutmeg for a added kick of spice which makes it a touch more royal!
Some swear it goes very well with Mee Soto, but we love it with our Nasi Lemak, or as part of a lineup featuring a banquet of Nasi Padang dishes like stir-fried Kang Kong, prawn sambal curry or Sayur Lodeh (vegetable curry). I promise you’ll love this and it is more simple than you think. Enjoy, and have a great week.
Bergedil (Deep-fried Potato Beef Croquettes)
250g ground beef
2 medium potatoes
1 egg (white and yolk separated)
1 tsp nutmeg
a sprinkling of white pepper
a sprinkling of black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 medium red onion, diced finely
1/2 C plain flour (to coat)
Directions-Bergedil (Deep-fried Potato Beef Croquettes):
Skin and slice potatoes into quarters and lower into a small pot of room temperature water. Ensure top of potatoes are immersed in the water, bring to a rapid boil for 10 to 12 minutes to parboil. Drain away the water, then mash the potato. Season with the two kinds of pepper, salt, nutmeg. Add the separated egg yolk into the mashed potato. Mix in the beef mince, then the diced onion. Heat up frying oil (I used vegetable oil). Shape into balls then flatten into circular patties. Beat the egg white till it is foamy. Coat the patties with some plain flour, then dip into the foamy egg white, and lastly, toss into the breadcrumbs on a plate.
Lower the patties carefully into the hot oil and fry the patties on both sides to a lovely golden brown. Drain on paper towels.