Kimchi Latkes

This recipe for kimchi latkes is the first of hopefully many guest posts by my husband, Ben Mekler. You’ve seen him in all my travel posts, and he lends a helping hand with almost everything I write, but this is the first one that’s straight up his. I’ll let him take it from here, but first, here’s a picture of him from our recent trip to Arizona in case you’re new here or forgot what he looks like.

Antelope Canyon

Latkes are important. In my humble and objectively correct opinion, there’s nothing on this planet more satisfying than fried potatoes. Throw in some tart sour cream and sweet applesauce and you’ve got a perfect meal. My family has a latke recipe that is considered nothing short of sacred. My grandparents make them roughly 2000 times a year. I love their recipe, but I’m also a constant tinkerer – I can’t leave anything well enough alone. So this year, I decided to obstruct my family’s prized latkes by adding a funky, spicy, sour wildcard – kimchi.

The good news? It works. The latkes wound up just as comforting and delicious as ever, with a fresh touch of complexity. And since you can’t really shred kimchi (at least not without making a huge mess), the diced fermented cabbage made the texture a little more interesting too. More good news – latkes are hard to screw up, so feel free to tweak pretty much anything in this recipe to your liking. Not a kimchi fan? Omit it. Boom – now this is a recipe for classic latkes. 

Special thanks to our friend Maggie Kang, who made us the extremely good jar of kimchi we used for this recipe. I highly recommend making your own for these latkes, because making kimchi is fun as hell, but if you’re impatient you can easily buy a bag or jar at most grocery stores these days.

Final thought before I free you unto this recipe – I won’t bore you with instructions, but we mixed a few tablespoons of the kimchi juice and a dash of smoked salt into our sour cream before dressing these latkes and it RULED. Highly recommend. I mean, you’ll have the kimchi juice lying around anyway, right? Waste not, want not.

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Kimchi Latkes (Makes approximately 16 potato pancakes)

Ingredients:

  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 2 small yellow onions
  • 1 to 1.5 cups diced kimchi (depending on how strong you want the kimchi flavor to come through)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • A bunch of oil oil (I like grapeseed for this but avocado, sunflower, or canola work fine)

Directions:

  1. Peel the potatoes and grate into a colander. I like to use the largest holes available for thick shreddies. After grating, rinse with cold water to get the extra starch off, then squeeze dry with a towel before transferring to your largest bowl. (You won’t get all the liquid out, but you want the potato shreds as dry as possible.)
  2. Peel your onions, then grate them into the large bowl with the potatoes. You can use a finer grate for the onions. I add mine really finely shredded – essentially as an onion paste.
  3. Dice your kimchi, pat dry with a towel, then add to the mixing bowl with the potato and onion.
  4. Add your eggs, salt, pepper, flour, and paprika to the mix. Stir together. You’re looking for a wet mix, but not too liquid-y. If things look way too soupy, try adding flour one tablespoon at a time. I wouldn’t overdo it, though. Don’t worry about it too much. Like I said earlier – it’s hard to screw up latkes.
  5. Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add a quarter-cup of your latke mix at a time, and let them fry for about four minutes on each side. You’re looking for a nice, light brown color. You should be able to fit two or three latkes in the pan at a time, but don’t crowd them. And if your first couple batches have trouble sticking together, you can always add another egg or two to your mix, which should help them bind better in the pan.
  6. As each latke finishes cooking, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate so you can ditch some of that excess oil. You’ll probably need to add more oil to the pan as you work your way through the latke batter. That’s fine.
  7. Once all your latkes are done, plate them with a dollop each of your favorite applesauce and sour cream. If you’re cool, you’ll have added some of that excess kimchi juice to your sour cream, along with a pinch of smoked salt.
  8. Eat. You earned it. Then share, and become the most popular member of your friend group.
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