Today, we are headed to Slovakia to discover one of the most popular dishes of the country: zemiakové placky, also called harul’a, as well as bramborák (plural bramboráky) in the Czech Republic, which can be translated to “potato pancakes”.
Slovakian cuisine is very rich, rich in diversity but also in calories. Staple foods of the traditional Slovak diet include dairy products, potatoes, cabbage and pork. Several tasty dishes, typical of Slovak cuisine, are prepared by combining these ingredients.
The Slovak national dish is bryndzové halušky (pronounced khalouchki), which, like the rest of Slovak cuisine, has strong rural roots, with dishes that are generally a bit heavy and greasy, able to withstand a long, hard work in the fields. They are small potato quenelles with sheep cheese (bryndza) and bacon and sometimes smoked bacon.
Potato is one of those “poor” ingredients that have defined the Slovak culinary tradition for centuries.
In Slovak cuisine, there are lokše (pronounced lokshe) and there are zemiakové placky, which are also very popular in the Czech Republic where they are called bramborák or bramboráčky, which makes sense as those two countries were only one until 1993. Zemiakové placky, which I chose to prepare today, are fried potato pancakes, flavored with marjoram and prepared with grated raw potato.
Unlike zemiakové placky, the lokše recipe requires cooking the potato to prepare a dough so that each lokše can be rolled and pressed like a tortilla. This is actually why lokše is called “the Slovak tortilla”, as it visually looks the same as a corn tortilla or a flour tortilla.
Let’s talk about potatoes!
In some parts of Africa, potatoes are called the “European apple”. And yet, potato (Solanum tuberosum) is native to South America, specifically from the Andean Cordillera, in the southwestern part of South America (Peru, Bolivia, Chile). Over there, it is called “papa”.
So back to the potato, whose first species was apparently cultivated by man 8000 years ago. But we have only really mastered the art of growing potatoes for just 2000 years.
From South America, potatoes only arrive in Europe in the 16th century. Initially, potatoes first landed in Spain, precisely in Seville, between 1560 and 1564, then made it to Portugal, then to Madrid at the end of the century.
In France since the end of the 16th century, potatoes are present in certain regions and arrive in Paris in 1601. It is cultivated for scientific purposes, but its arrival into the kitchen is the result of the work of Antoine Parmentier. Parmentier, a French agronomist, was taken prisoner by the Prussians during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) and learned to appreciate potatoes.
As he returned to his homeland, he obtained, in 1786, from King Louis XVI, who uses the potato flower as an ornament, the permission to cultivate potatoes on large fields.
It is said that to encourage farmers to grow potatoes and especially to use them in the kitchen, Antoine Parmentier, used the ruse to have the fields guarded and spread the rumor that it was a very special and very valuable crop. But he also used the ruse to leave the crops unattended at night to encourage the theft of potatoes and have people discover them.
Note that this is the same Mr. Parmentier who is the the inventor of the famous hachis Parmentier, a classic recipe of French cuisine!
Since its appearance in Western kitchens, potatoes have made a beautiful journey and are now invited everywhere! Sometimes boiled, sautéed or mashed, sometimes in chips, soups, baked, steamed or fried! Yes, let’s not forget the famous French fries!
It can also be found where we do not expect it. It is found in the form of starch, in certain medications, in your lipsticks and also in your baby diapers or the recycled bags at your local supermarkets!
It also has medicinal properties to treat burns, frostbite, chapping and paronychia.
Yes, potato is everywhere!
- 3 lb white potatoes
- 4 cloves garlic , crushed
- 3 eggs
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons marjoram
- Vegetable oil for frying
Peel the potatoes and grate them immediately with a medium grater.
Pour them into a strainer and let them drain well by placing a weight on top.
In a large salad bowl, combine the grated potatoes with garlic, eggs, flour, salt, pepper and marjoram. Mix well.
Divide the dough into 15 balls of the same size and flatten them.
Cook them in a hot oil bath, gently turning them occasionally, until golden brown.
Place them on a plate lined with paper towel and serve immediately after frying.