The croquet or croquette (kroket in Dutch) is a popular snack in the Netherlands. A croquet is a fried snack shaped like a thick sausage. A croquet is crunchy and hard on the outside, but very soft and smooth on the inside. Right after frying the inside can be very hot.
Each year 300 million croquets are sold in Holland (about 18 per person), making it the second favorite snack, only surpassed by the frikadel, a minced-meat hot dog, which sells about 580 million each year. This number does not include the croquets fried and eaten by consumers at home, likely millions as well.
As the croquet sells so well in Holland, suppliers have often tried to market and sell it in other countries, but have failed, even in neighbouring countries like Belgium and Germany. It is suggested this is because of the strange contrast between outside and inside of the croquet and its junkfood nature. The only foreign locations the croquet sells well are places that attract scores of Dutch tourists like the Costa del Sol. Potato croquettes, however, are quite popular in some parts of Germany. In Japanese cuisine, a relative of the croquet, korokke (コロッケ) is a popular fried food item, but is generally patty-shaped and vegetarian, and served with chopped cabbage and a sweet sauce.
The croquet was actually a French invention, and was introduced in the Netherlands at the start of the 20th century. In 1909, the Dutch patissier Kwekkeboom came across a fried ragout filled croquet in France on one of his travels. The French used all sorts of stuffings on the croquet, different sorts of meat, fish, vegetables and potatoes. Kwekkeboom introduced the croquet in Holland and started producing croquets filled with good quality beef. The croquet became a success story, nowadays there are numerous suppliers but quality and price can differ greatly. Nowadays, suppliers experiment with all sorts of croquet stuffings, including salmon, asparagus, sate, shrimp, cheese and goulash.
The croquet is basically a ragout fried in breadcrumbs so obviously the ragout is the defining ingredient. The base ingredient of the ragout is meat. Different sorts of meat are used, depending on the target quality and taste of the croquet. The cheapest croquets are made from horse meat, a bit better are the pork meat croquets, and the best ones are filled with beef. Often different meats are mixed, the quality of the croquet is then expressed in the percentage of a certain kind of meat it contains. To produce the ragout, a clear soup is drawn from hand selected and weighed spices, a critical process. Separately a roux made out of butter and flour is created and together with the clear soup, the chopped meat and some gelatine, is steamed hot in a large kettle. After the mixture is cooled down a layer of breadcrumbs and eggwhite is added, concluding the process.
Croquets, and Frikandels (and other hot snacks like hamburgers) are often sold in "snack bars" or through a coin operated machine called an "automatiek" (see automat). The machine takes the shape of a row of little windows. Each snack has its own row. After you slot in a coin you can open one of the windows and take your snack. The machine is heated so the snacks keep hot. Behind the machine is the kitchen where the snacks are prepared, the little windows are re-supplied from the back. Such snack selling machines are often located in train stations, or in busy shopping streets.
Croquets are commonly eaten in a bread bun, often with mustard and a piece of pickled gherkin.
Croquets are so popular in Holland that even McDonalds sells them, in the form of a McKroket, which is just like a hamburger but with a thick disk shaped round Croquet.
The ingredients of the cheaper croquets are the target of a recurring urban legend. Rumours are that offal, pig eyes, cow udders, chicken toes and other animal parts are added to the croquets, providing filling and flavour. All this is very unlikely since Dutch food law is very strict, and any supplier adding animal waste to food risks being banned from the industry altogether. It is possible that these rumours are spread by the top croquet brands in Holland, Van Dobben and Kwekkeboom, to distinguish themselves from the lower quality, but much cheaper, brands.