Minsk Belarus potato latkes pancakes
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Enjoying Potato Latkes in Minsk — and Happy Chanukah 5783

Potato pancakes are the national dish of Belarus.

Oil is an important component of the holiday known as Chanukah — which begins at sundown tonight, Sunday, December 18, 2022 — because when a single cruse of olive oil was found that was not contaminated by the Seleucids during the second century before the common era, it was used to light a candelabrum called a menorah

Enjoying Potato Latkes in Minsk — and Happy Chanukah 5783

…and the olive oil lasted for eight days instead of one day, which was considered a miracle and gave the small group of Jewish people time to be prepared under the proper conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate that miracle, Chanukah — which is also known as the festival of lights — is celebrated annually with the lighting of a menorah every night for eight consecutive nights, special prayers, and fried foods…

…and one of those fried foods is known as a latke, which is essentially a potato pancake which is fried in oil. The potato pancake is the national dish of Belarus, which is one of several countries in eastern Europe where potato pancakes originated.

When I found out this information, I knew that I had to have some potato pancakes while I was in Minsk, which is the capital city of Belarus — especially as I have always enjoyed potato latkes. My mouth watered at the very thought of enjoying one.

Minsk Belarus potato latkes pancakes
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

After conducting some rudimentary research — hey, I was hungry and wanted to waste no time — I decided to go to a small café restaurant called Draniki Vyaskoviya in Minsk. дранікі is Cyrillic for draniki, which basically translates from Belarusian to English as potato pancake.

Minsk Belarus potato latkes pancakes
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

This location of Draniki Vyaskoviya was quite popular when I arrived, as I waited in line for at least 15 minutes to place my order at the counter. Customers could view the menu overhead while they wait in line.

Minsk Belarus potato latkes pancakes
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Potato pancakes could be ordered in many different ways — and quite a variety of other options were available from the menu as well. Fortunately, photographs were available for anyone who could not read Belarusian, as Cyrillic characters were used. English was nowhere to be found or spoken in Draniki Vyaskoviya — other than the word new — which was truly a place where local people came to eat and drink. This was definitely not a place for tourists.

Minsk Belarus potato latkes pancakes
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

A serving of four golden brown potato pancakes cost 2.9 Belarusian rubles on Thursday, April 20, 2017 — or slightly greater than $1.54 in United States dollars. I doubt that four potato pancakes would cost 2.9 Belarusian rubles today, which would be approximately $1.15 in United States dollars.

The potato pancakes were delicious and worth every Belarusian ruble. I enjoyed them.

Minsk Belarus potato latkes pancakes
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Draniki Vyaskoviya was located on 42 praspiekt Niezaliežnasci — which translates as Independence Avenue, which is the main boulevard in Minsk. I used the past tense was because it seems that the café restaurant no longer exists. An attempt to view their menu at what was once their official Internet web site is now unsuccessful.

That is what I get for putting off writing an article too long. Oh, well…

Final Boarding Call

The creation of potato pancakes — or latkes — is such a simple recipe that I do not believe anyone can incorrectly choose a place in Belarus to sample the national dish. Because potatoes were considered a cheap staple for poor people, dining on a fancy potato pancake at an upscale eatery probably would be little more than a waste of extra money.

Minor variations of the recipe of grated potatoes and onions fried in oil are available — I personally have added fresh minced garlic and fresh lime on occasion when I prepare them, while other people might add flour, baking soda, eggs, or other ingredients for varying textures and flavors — but I prefer the base recipe.

As for accompaniments, applesauce is quite popular. Salt and pepper also works. You can even use — ugh — ketchup if you have to do so. Use whatever you want to accompany your latkes or potato pancakes.

May tonight start a festive and joyous Chanukah holiday if you celebrate it — and try not to lose too much chocolate coin gelt when spinning the dreidels

All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Looks great! I could really go for some of those pel-meni right about now. I still buy the frozen ones from a Ukrainian market here in Cleveland.

  2. Very nice and thoughtful of you to use your tourist dollars to fund the dictatorship that directly supports the killing of Ukrainians.

    1. I assume he was not cognizant of the current 2022 Ukrainian/Russian conflict when visiting in the spring of 2017, as noted in the post.

      That said, why would travelers be restricted by the policies or beliefs of the locations visited… allowing people to meet and attempt to understand other cultures – both the visitor and the local – is how minds change and empathy is developed.

      I was recently in Eastern Europe. Should I not have gone to Serbia because they do not recognize Kosovo as its own country? Should I not have visited Kosovo because Serbia would feel I illegally entered their soil?

      One can certainly visit a location without supporting all the policies and practices of the region – I would venture to say it is impossible to travel internationally if only visiting places that support one’s ideals and beliefs. Travel, even within the United States, would be virtually impossible if these strict standards were meant to be upheld.

      1. I didn’t see reference to 2017 way towards the end of the article. Given that the header says December 18, 2022, I’m sure you can understand my mistake. Having said that, your parallels to Serbia and Kosovo would be completely inapplicable to today’s situation with Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. There is an active engagement going on right now, part of which unfolding from Belarus. So yes, to me, going to Belarus today as a tourist is a direct expression of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And while the original post is from 2017, reposting it today is really insensitive and dumb.

        1. Do you speak out against: Lufthansa; British Airways; Air Canada?
          Do their flights to the Islamic Republic of Iran (largest State sponsor of terrorism), concern you?
          Or countries that allow Air Mahan (Iran’s national carrier) to land? Frequently transporting weapons.

          1. Two largest State Sponsors of Terrorism are actually Israel and USA (despite American attempts to accuse of terrorism countries they don’t like, such as freedom-loving and fiercely independent Cuba!). USA is a much more terrorist-minded regime than Cuba by any means.

  3. Happy Chanukah Brian!
    Thank you for the post and pics.

    A few years ago, I was in Frankfurt during Chanukah. I found latkes in the Christmas market!

  4. Happy Chanukah Brian!We love potato pancakes,they are a staple at Friday night fish fries here in Wisconsin!And yes they serve them with applesauce!

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