NYC Latke-fest Strays Off the Kosher Path

Pork potato pancakes and latkes made of ham were some of the entries that raised eyebrows at the 6th Annual Latke Festival in New York City.

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Screenshot from Twitter of Mokbar's "Korean Potato Pancake with Kimchi Crema."
Screenshot from Twitter of Mokbar's "Korean Potato Pancake with Kimchi Crema."

What better way to celebrate a Jewish holiday food than to cook it with a product as notoriously unkosher as ham?

That counterintuitive question seems to have been on the minds of several participants in this year’s 6th Annual Latke Festival in New York City this week.

The Ukrainian restaurant Veselka in the East Village, one of 24 restaurants and vendors offering their version of Hanukkah potato pancakes at the festival, layered its latkes with pork goulash, The Daily Beast reported Wednesday. Korean restaurant Mokbar, in Chelsea Market, had the chutzpah to dish up pork potato pancake.

The Brooklyn eatery Egg at least had the courtesy to warn would-be latke tasters that its latkes -- made out of country ham, of course -- were not kosher, posting a sign warning “CARFUL! TRAIF!”

Latkes are traditionally eaten on Hanukkah because the oil in which they’re fried is meant to remind us that back in the second century, the Jews found a cask of pure olive oil in the desecrated Temple that would normally have kept the Temple’s menorah lit for just one day but instead kept it going for eight. (Hence the eight nights, and eight candles, of Hanukkah.)

One of the ways the Syrian-Greeks (the guys the Maccabees were fighting) desecrated the Temple, according to the Hanukkah story, was by sacrificing a particular non-kosher animal – yup, that’s right, the pig – at the sacred site. Yet there was plenty of oink accompanying this year’s Latke Festival.

The traditional latke toppings of sour cream and apple sauce? Not so much.

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