Orna & Ella’s sweet potato pancakes


I guess I lack holiday spirit. It’s Hanukkah, but I haven’t been able to get in the mood for grease. After making six types of latkes last year, and frying them in more than enough oil to keep a hanukkiyah burning for eight days, I went a different route this year — potato pancakes that don’t have much in common with the Hanukkah staple, beyond the name.

These sweet potato pancakes are the signature dish of Orna & Ella, a fabulous establishment on Sheinken that has been producing creative, quality dishes since 1992. This recipe can be found all over the Web in Hebrew, and is also featured in their cookbook.

Basically, it’s mashed-up sweet potatoes mixed with flour and fried in butter. There are no eggs, so it’s the butter that helps the pancakes brown and solidify somewhat, although they’ll always be soft and creamy in the center.

This is pretty much the original recipe, although my variations include preparing the batter in a blender (as opposed to mixing by hand) and making the sauce with yogurt instead of sour cream, and with less mayonnaise, in the name of health (it tastes just as good, as far as I’m concerned).

For the batter:
750 grams sweet potatoes
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

lots of butter for frying (in the range of 1/4 cup)

For the sauce:
large handful fresh chives
big scoop of yogurt — I use buffalo yogurt, which is low-fat and creamy
spoonful of mayonnaise
Salt to taste
freshly ground pepper

To prepare the batter: Peel the sweet potatoes, and microwave in a covered glass jar until soft. Let cool, and drain out the extra liquids.

Blend the sweet potatoes with the other batter ingredients, and add a bit more flour if the batter is too sticky.

Heat a pan on medium heat, and melt enough butter to create a thin layer on the bottom. With a spoon or icing bag, drop small circles of batter into the pan (like large silver dollars). As they cook in the butter, you’ll see the sides begin to acquire a slight golden color.

Flip once the bottoms have browned, and brown on the other side as well. Repeat with the rest of the batter, adding more butter as needed.

To prepare the sauce, finely dice the chives — into 1-2 millimeter segments, there’s nothing fun about getting a large chunk of greens — and mix with the yogurt, the mayonnaise (which improves the texture) and the salt and pepper. I like my dip to be heavy with chives, so I usually add an equal volume of chives and yogurt, if not more chives.

Serve the pancakes warm, alongside the cold sauce.

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