Belarusians are often referred to as “bulbashy” (from “bulba” – potato in Belarusian) by our fellow post-Soviet neighbors, and even though it is sometimes to tease us, we are truly proud of this reputation as potato connoisseurs. There is a big variety of traditional Belarusian dishes made with potatoes, to the extent one could eat potato three times a day for weeks and never have the exact same dish twice. However, out of this plenty, one stands out as the most nostalgic, the most truly Belarusian, the most signature dish, and it is draniki – fried potato pancakes served with variety of sauces and fillings.
The word “draniki” derives from the Belarusian “дзерці’ (literally, to tear up), referring to the method of preparation of the batter for draniki by finely grating potatoes. This is in fact the most (and the only) labor-intense part of preparing draniki. The recipe I am sharing with you here is the one my babushka (grandma) taught me. One basic technique (but a very important one) is to let the grated potato juices drain in a colander for at least 10 minutes – this way your potato pancakes will turn out crispier on the outside and simply prettier and easier to cook. Once you master the basics, you will only be limited by your imagination on the twists to this recipe (like adjusting the amount of herbs, adding your favorite spices, and preparing various sauces and fillings for your potato pancakes, just to name a few).
Active time: 30 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes | Serves: 6
7 medium potatoes, finely grated
2 small onions, finely grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp flour
2-3 tbsp sour cream
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Freshly milled pepper
Bunch dill, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Transfer finely grated potatoes and onions to a colander and let the juices drain for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. Squeeze out the access water and transfer to a mixing bowl.
In the mixing bowl, combine potatoes and onions with all the remaining ingredients, mix together until well combined.
Film a large skillet with olive oil. When it is hot, drop in the batter (about 1/4 cups makes a pancake about 31/2 across). Cook over medium heat until golden on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side.
Garnish with herbs and serve warm with sour cream or melted butter on a side.
A traditional twist to draniki 101 is to prepare them with filling – meat, mushroom, fish, or hard-boiled eggs. Make your favorite filling ahead of time and drop a tablespoon of it in the center of each pancake a minute after you start frying them in the skillet, then “seal” the filling with more potato batter on the top. My favorite filling is made of ground pork – just saute it with onions, salt and pepper, and it is good to go inside of your draniki.