Orna and Ella's Sweet Potato Latkes (or Pancakes)
Adapted from "Orna and Ella, The Cookbook" (published in Hebrew)
"Orna and Ella" restaurant closed in 2018 after almost three decades and we still miss this Tel Avivian classic and especially these addictive latkes.
The method is quite straightforward, but working with mashed sweet potatoes can be a bit tricky. The quality of sweet potatoes is crucial to the success of the recipe. Lately I have been buying mini-sweet potatoes at the Tel Aviv Farmers’ Market and they turned out to be perfect for making these latkes. In the restaurant, the latkes are formed using a piping bag – yielding perfectly round discs. If you don’t have one, form the latkes with wet hands.
Ingredients (serves 12)
For the latkes:
1 kg (2 lbs) sweet potatoes – preferably small
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
A little oil or butter for frying
For the dipping sauce:
1 small container (about 2/3 cup) sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons chopped chives
photo: Eilon Paz
If you are using mini sweet potatoes, cook them in their skins until completely soft (pierce with a blade of a knife), cool slightly and peel. If you are using big ones – peel and cut them in large, fairly uniform cubes and cook until soft. Place in a colander to drain excess liquid.
Let cool, add soy sauce and mix gently with your hands (the mixture is quite sticky). Add salt, sugar and flour and mix again, until thoroughly combined. Discard any hard bits, and avoid over mixing, which will make the batter heavier and even stickier.
Set aside for half an hour. If you use a piping bag, fit it with a smooth wide nozzle and fill it with the batter.
Gently heat a skillet and add just enough oil or butter to cover its surface. [Note: If you fry in butter, add some oil as well to prevent the butter from burning.] Pipe small latkes directly onto the skillet or wet your hands and form balls size of a walnut, drop on a skillet and flatten with a spatula.
Fry the latkes gently for 4-5 minutes, flipping them once. They should be nicely browned and firm enough to be removed with a spatula. Drain on paper towel. Fry in batches until all the batter is used. Add more oil or butter, if necessary and make sure the oil is hot before adding another batch of pancakes.
Combine the dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Serve the latkes warm with the dipping sauce or set aside and reheat in a medium-hot oven (not in a microwave!). Reheating actually improves the texture, so these latkes are perfect for making ahead.