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Try These Japanese Tempura Latkes (Caviar Optional)

Black-Japanese-Jewish diversity advocate shares unique Hanukkah recipe.

The author, left, lighting the menorah with her daughter, Hadassah. (Courtesy)

Potato latkes are a staple of Hanukkah, and I have a few different versions that I like to make. But the recipe I share below is special to me because it blends my Japanese and Jewish heritage. It is a recipe that I will pass on to my children, and hopefully they will pass it on to theirs.

Although we Jews may have different Hanukkah recipes and traditions, we share the story of the Maccabees and how we light the menorah. Around the world, Jews will light the same number of candles. Arranged in a single row, the candles remind us that when we stand by each other and our neighbors, we can collectively be a stronger light in the world.

This year, Hanukkah will be different because of the pandemic. Let’s be thankful that we have been afforded another opportunity to celebrate eight more days of life.

Dee Sanae’s Umai Jagaimo (Yummy Potato) Tempura Latkes

Yield: 16


4 large russet potatoes
1/2 cup of rice flour or Dynasty’s gluten-free tempura mix (if using rice flour, add 2 tsp of corn starch)
3-4 Japanese leeks (negi) trimmed use the green and white part (if not available use two regular leeks chopped white part only)
1 scallion trimmed and chopped using white parts only
3 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (add more to taste)
2 tsp of pepper
2 garlic cloves
Light sesame oil for frying
Optional: Add chili oil for a spicy taste


  1. Peel and cut potatoes in half. Grate potatoes with the larger side of the grater. Keep potatoes in ice-cold water even after shredding the potatoes to avoid browning.
  2. Rinse scallions and leeks before cutting them. Dry well; then add the scallions and leeks, rice flour or tempura mix, eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mix well.
  3. Use a cheesecloth or paper towel to squeeze out the excess water from the potato mixture.
  4. Add egg-leek mixture to the grated potatoes and mix evenly. Make sure that the egg-leek mixture is coating all of the shredded potatoes.
  5. Fill the pan with enough oil to cover the pan’s bottom; the oil should be about 1/6-1/8 inches deep. Heat to about 375 degrees. The oil should not pop when you put it in the potato mixture, so please test the oil with a little potato, and if it pops, turn down the heat until it is a nice simmer. Add half of the garlic cloves to the oil until aroma. Use the other half of the garlic cloves for the rest of the potato mixture.
  6. Make the potato mixture about 3 tablespoons full and compress with hands to form a tight patty.
    Tips: I actually use a 3-inch small strainer to measure it out and then slide it into the oil from the strainer with a spoon. I also don’t put more than 4 latkes at a time. If your latkes aren’t holding together, add starch or rice flour mix one teaspoon at a time until the potato mixture can hold its circular form. You can add another egg to the mixture too.
  7. Fry the patty until light to a golden brown.
    Note: The patty will be done before becoming a dark golden brown due to the tempura or rice flour. Look for a nice crispy patty with a light golden brown coloring. If you want a darker golden brown, you can fry longer if you wish.
  8. After frying and when both sides of the latke reach a light golden brown, remove the latkes from the pan and lay them on a paper towel to drain.
  9. Use two sheets of dried seaweed and cut into small squares.
  10. Plate the latkes and then garnish the sour cream and latkes with dried seaweed and sometimes additional chopped negi.
  11. Optional: Garnish the top with caviar.

Itadakimasu / Enjoy!