Spiced Latkes: From 0 to 60

December 27, 2011

in Holiday, Recipe,

Spiced LatkesA couple of weeks ago the lovely folks from Beyond Bubbie asked me if I would make latkes with my own spicy twist for a party where they were announcing the launch of their site. I was honored and immediately said “Yes!” even though I had never eaten or cooked a latke before.

Latkes are crispy fried pancakes made of shredded potatoes and onions. These aren’t your typical pancakes. They have crunchy exteriors that give way to luscious layers of smooth, creamy, potato goodness. They are often served with sour cream or applesauce, and are traditionally eaten by Jewish people during Hannukah.

latkesRaised in a Hindu home, in a Catholic school, in a Muslim country, and now married to a man with Jewish ancestry, my only religion is food. How could I say no? And so, I was about to go from never having made a latke to making sixty in a week.

latke ingredientsA quick Google search for an authentic latke recipe garnered more information and passionate discussions than I had expected. I was enthralled, and slightly intimidated, by the strong opinions that people had of every single aspect of what makes a good latke. Should one use flour or matzo meal? Little or lots of oil? Shred or grate the potatoes? Bake or fry? I read, tested and combined different recipes since I was determined to make a latke that would make any bubbie proud (Yiddish: grandmother).

shredded potatoes onions for latkesDuring this recipe search, I stumbled across an excellent video with tips on how to make a perfect latke but also what NOT to do (see video below). The coolest tip? Shredded potatoes tend to turn a dull brown when they are exposed to air. Mixing them in a bowl with a dissolved tablet of vitamin C turns them back to a bright creamy color without imparting any citrus flavor. Magic!

frying latkesConfident with a latke recipe, I surveyed my spices. I immediately thought of one of my favorite Indian street foods, aloo tikkis – fried patties of spiced mashed potatoes and onions. As a kid, I devoured handfuls of these potato patties every year we visited my grandparents in New Delhi. After a little bit of experimenting – Voila! A spiced latke was born that would make any bubbie proud; including mine.

frying latkesAs I sprinkled cumin into the potato mix, I started to think of all the bubbies sighing “oy vey” in disbelief. But then I remembered that I want to live in a world that embraces a mingling of traditions, and how sculpting my own path to that perfectly spiced latke meant more than just mixing potatoes with spices. I learned more about the Jewish part of my husband’s culture and his childhood, and my willingness to embrace both brought us even closer.

Brace yourself, bubbies of the world. Today it’s spiced latkes, tomorrow it’s curry matzo ball soup!

spiced latkes with cilantro mint chutneyNext up, the sauce for the latkes. The sweetness of applesauce would not work with this recipe and I like to improvise too much to serve just plain sour cream. I wanted the latkes to be sumptuously dressed for the occasion. So, I decided to pair them with a cilantro mint yogurt chutney often served with kebabs.

spiced latkes with cilantro mint chutneyI’m happy to say that the guests at the party loved them! I can’t wait to make these for my mum-in-law the next time she visits. I hope these latkes give her much nachas (Yiddish: happiness/pride).

I’d love to hear how you liked these, about your adventures on trying something new, or about any recipes you’ve tried that have brought cultures together on a plate.

Wishing you happy holidays and a spicy Hanukkah!

~Anjali

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