Potato balls for Harvest moon じゃがチーズもち

japanese cake

There are certain things in nature that my wife particularly likes; among them, are rainbows and bright Moons. Every time conditions are right to form a rainbow i.e. the sun comes out while it is still raining, she goes out to look for one. If she sees one she takes the time to admire it until it disappears. In the evening, if the sky is clear, she is on the look out for the shine of the Moon. So, when she learned about “Chu-shu-no-meigetsu” 中秋の名月 and the round shaped food that goes with “Tsuki-mi” 月見 or moon gazing, it was a done deal. Tsuki-mi took its place on our calendar. I suppose, making “Tsukimi dango” 月見団子 is most traditional but it is not particularly interesting to me (it is a sweetened rice flour dumpling–not one of my favorites). So when I saw this mashed potato ball recipe with cheese, there was no question that this was the one I would make. The picture below was taken before frying. I just wanted to make the correct 15 ball pyramid (3×3 base, 2×2 middle and two on the top) indicative of “ju-go ya*” 十五夜 meaning 15th night in a month before one potentially exploded while being fried.

*The moon that is the focus of tsuki-mi is the full moon before the fall equinox. In the U.S. that moon is called the harvest moon. According to the lunar calendar the 15th day after the new moon would be the full moon. Thus, “ju-go ya” means a full moon but using the Gregorian calendar, obviously, the 15th day of the month may not be the full moon. This year, the full moon before the equinox occurred on the 15-16th night in September. We could not see the moon, however, because of the clouds.

The original recipe was to deep fry the potato balls but I sauteed some, which were served immediately, in butter with a bit of soy sauce poured on top at the end.

Mashed potato, melting cheese, butter and soy sauce is a combination that cannot go wrong in my experience. 

This is inside of the ball showing the melting cheese–yum. I used smoked Gouda. I poured hot melted butter over the baby arugula.


Potatoes, 3 medium.

Potato starch. 2-3 tbs

Melting cheese (I used smoked gouda), cut into small cubes



  1. Boil the potatoes with skin-on on salted water until cooked.
  2. Remove the skin and mash them. 
  3. Add the potato starch and salt, mix well until elastic dough forms
  4. Using a small ice cream scoop, I portioned out the mashed potato (#1). (requires at least 15 to make a appropriate presentation. I made 20 just in case a few broke during the cooking).
  5. I encased a cube of cheese (#2) with the mashed potato and rolled it into balls between my palms. (#3). 
  6. I kept these potato balls in a sealed container in the refrigerator until I cooked and served them (#4).

The original recipe suggested either deep frying or baking them.  I thought if I fried them they would just taste like potato croquettes with cheese in the middle so I decided to sautee them in melted butter.  I kept the balls moving in the pan so that all the surfaces were cooked and browned. At the very end, I added a light colored soy sauce and kept moving the pan until all the surface was coated.

Certainly, this was rather good. The molten cheese center was too hot initially but cooled down quickly. Although the Harvest moon was hidden behind clouds, we enjoyed this “Tsukimi” food or moon-gazing food.

P.S. The next evening, we tried baking the potato balls. The cheese melted and seeped out leaving a hollow potato shell in a puddle of melted cheese. Sauteing would be the preferred method of cooking. 

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