| Potato pancakes or latkes (sometimes spelled latkas) are cakes of grated potatoes fried in oil. Potato pancakes are called "latkes" in the Jewish tradition, but they are a European food and not specifically a Jewish one.
Hanukkah and Latkes Recipes
Potato pancakes very likely originated in Eastern Europe, where they are still eaten in large numbers. Areas like northeast Poland, for instance, know many varieties. A favorite Polish dish is placki wegierskie, potato pancakes stuffed with a thick spicy Hungarian goulash.
Potato pancakes are an important part of Jewish cuisine in the United States and Europe. They can be served any time, but by tradition they are especially popular in the celebration of Hanukkah. Eating potato pancakes is not one of the mitzvot of Hanukkah; that is, it is not a fundamental part of the Hanukkah rituals, and has no explicit religious significance. However, Jews find it appropriate to eat foods cooked in oil during the festival that celebrates the miracle of the Temple oil. In Israel, where they are known as levivot (singular levivah), potato pancakes are familiar and well-liked, but sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts, singular sufganiyah) are considered to be more Israeli.
Latkes are often eaten with sour cream, applesauce, or both.
Recipes for potato pancakes vary in the degree of fineness to which the potatoes are grated. Some are grated to long strips, others to a fine powder. Potato pancakes bear a distant resemblance to the American dish called hash browns; however, hash browns are merely coarsely grated potatoes with no binding ingredients or flour. The French dish commonly known as "potato galette" is also similar, but in it the sour cream is an ingredient rather than a topping.
The Swedish version of potato pancakes are called "raggmunk", which literally translates to hairy doughnuts, the grated potatoes making them look hairy. They are made from wheat flour, milk, egg, and potatoes, and are fried just like thin pancakes. If the actual pancake batter is left out, the fried cakes of grated potatoes are called rårakor. Both kinds are enjoyed with fried bacon and/or lingonberry jam.
One recipe for potato pancakes is given below. Variants include cheese latkes, zucchini latkes, and apple latkes.
4 large potatoes
1 medium onion
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons Matzo meal, corn meal, or flour
salt to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (for less oily latkes), or enough oil to fill the pan to about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm).
applesauce and/or sour cream
Peel potatoes and onion and grate.
Optionally soak the resulting mixture in water, or squeeze it in a dishtowel, in order to remove excess starch.
Mix potato and onion with egg, meal, and salt.
Heat oil in a 10" pan over medium heat until it is quite hot. Drop 1-2 tablespoons of the potato mixture onto the pan per pancake.
Turn once to allow both sides to fry. Allow 10-15 minutes total.
Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream as a topping.