Latkes, the oil-crisped fritters made from shredded potatoes, have become utterly central to the American Hanukkah celebration. Never mind that the New World potato didn’t reach widespread use in Eastern European Jewish cuisine until the mid-19th century. Never mind that the original Hanukkah latkes were made out of cheese, not tubers. These days, potato latkes are the law of the land for Ashkenazi households. The only debate remaining is sour cream versus applesauce (and whether or not to add a jelly doughnut the plate).
And yet, potato latkes are just the beginning. Over the past few decades, Americans have gotten more creative with their latkes, replacing Russets with parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, or any other number of vegetables. But beyond the latke canon lies a world of Hanukkah delicacies. After all, the focus of Hanukkah is the oil; what goes into it is secondary. As the story goes, the Maccabees found only a few drops of olive oil after recapturing the Holy Temple from the Ancient Greeks. But somehow, whether through magic or divine intervention, the oil lasted for eight days and nights. To celebrate this oily miracle, Jews all over the globe shallow and deep-fry any number of treats, both sweet and savory and spanning the kosher spectrum from pareve and dairy to meat.
In honor of Hanukkah, Tablet offers this illustrated guide of some of the tastiest fritters from around the globe. We are by no means suggesting that you ditch your annual latke fry-up. But from India’s sweetened milk fritters to Italy’s fried chicken (and fried squash and rice fritters—Italian Jews love to fry food!), it might just get a whole lot tastier.
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