Hanukkah is a blast for Jews who celebrate for many reasons: You spend quality time with family, you don’t miss out on all the wintertime holiday cheer, and you get to partake in eight glorious nights of gift giving. But perhaps the best part of celebrating Hanukkah is eating the delicious celebratory food.
The holiday commemorates the miraculous victory of the tiny army of the Maccabees over the gargantuan army of the Seleucids (Syrian Greeks). But even more miraculous than the army’s unlikely victory was the miracle that occurred afterwards in the temple of Jerusalem. Even though the Maccabees did not have nearly enough oil to keep the menorah inside the temple alight, it remained lit for eight days and nights.
To symbolize the oil from the story, almost all Hanukkah foods are deep-fried — including latkes. If you don’t know what a latke is, you’re missing out. Latkes are basically fritters made of potatoes and onion. They’re deep-fried and delicious. Some have tried making latkes from other foods, such as squash or zucchini. But (sorry, zoodle fans) no matter how hard you try, zucchini just doesn't have enough delicious carbs to make a truly tasty latke. Save the zucchini fritters for another holiday.
Potato latkes are typically topped with one of two things: applesauce or sour cream. (Or both, for those who dare.) But even though some people love pairing the two, applesauce is a really poor choice to put on your latke. It practically ruins these otherwise-perfect treats.
Disagree? Why Your Latkes Need Applesauce
After they’re fried, latkes have layers of texture to enjoy. When they’re cooked right, these delightful little pancakes have a crispy outside and a softer middle, mixed throughout with savory flakes of onion to keep things interesting. Applesauce, on the other hand, has one dull texture: mush. The main purpose it serves is baby food — or, like, one of the only things you can eat when you get your wisdom teeth out. Not celebratory enough to commemorate the great Hanukkah miracle. And when you spread it on your perfectly-crisp latke, the pancake instantly becomes soggy. Soggy potatoes? No, thank you.
Sour cream, on the other hand, is thick enough to hold up well and doesn’t interfere with any crispy edges. When you dollop sour cream on your pancake, it doesn’t seep into the layers of flaky potato. Instead, it works as a topping should: It lies on top of the latke. And every bite tastes like savory perfection.
Sure, applesauce is lower in fat or whatever. But if you’re eating latkes, cutting calories probably shouldn’t be your priority. And unless you’re making your own applesauce from scratch, the kind you buy from the store is probably made mostly of sugar, anyway.
Let your latkes be savory. Satisfy your sweet tooth with some deep-fried jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot) instead. They’re also a traditional Hanukkah food — your Jewish ancestors wouldn’t let you go without dessert.
What’s a holiday without a little indulgence? It sounds almost as dismal as a Hanukkah without gifts. Speaking of which — have you bought gifts for everyone you should this season?