This weekend on Easter Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending the Eco Design Fair here in Shanghai to do a cooking demo at their Chef’s Corner. The fair was outside at a beautiful venue, where guests could walk from tent to tent to learn about the Eco-friendly companies in Shanghai and sample some products. In Chef’s Corner, the event organizer, GoodtoChina, provided some organic veggies from local farms and asked that chefs come prepare a small sample of a healthy recipe using the veggies.
I chose to use beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes to make latkes, and topped it with a killer fresh, raw green pepper sauce packed with herbs. I was lucky enough to have my wonderful friends with some great photography skills there to capture the moment so I could share it on the blog.
Since we were cooking outside on a hotplate, I wanted to make something that was easy to whip up in one bowl. I actually had quite a challenge when it came to squeezing the moisture out of the shredded vegetables. Latkes are traditionally made with russet potatoes, its is really important to squeeze all of the moisture out before frying or they will fall apart in the oil. Carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes are packed with water, and I had no cheesecloth or colander, so I had to use about half a roll of paper towels to press the liquid out (not very eco-friendly, I know). In the end I still think they were a little too wet, but I compensated by added extra breadcrumbs to soak up some moisture.
There were several Chinese ladies who were just fascinated by what I was making. I don’t think they were shocked by a potato pancake so much as the bright red color of the mixture. Beets aren’t really a staple in the Chinese diet, and I learned that the Chinese word for beet is literally just “purple carrot”. They were the most interested in the sauce. They thought it seemed really complicated and couldn’t believe that I was adding handfuls of mint leaves.
That actually surprised me because I have been to several Yunnan restaurants in China that serve an insanely good salad of mint leaves and spicy peppers, but it doesn’t really make much of an appearance in Shanghainese cuisine.
These latkes should be majority sweet potato, but the combination of veggies is totally up to availability and personal taste, I didn’t have measuring cups at this event, so everything was done by taste, which is the best way to cook! You can easily adjust. My general rule is 1 egg & 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs for every 2 cups of grated veggies, but you don’t want the mixture to be too soggy so you really have to eyeball it.
For the Latkes:
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 large carrot
- 1/2 large beet
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- oil for frying
- 1 handful of fresh cilantro
- 1 handful of fresh parsley
- 1 handful of fresh mint
- 1 large green pepper
- 2 or 3 small hot green chilies (or jalapenos)
- 1 clove of garlic
- juice of 1 lemon
- olive oil
- salt (to taste)
- To make the fresh sauce, put handfuls of fresh herbs, seeded and roughly chopped peppers, peeled garlic cloves, lemon juice and 1 T olive oil in a blender, pulse a few times. Add a little more olive oil and a pinch of salt & blend until it has a good saucey consistency. I always like to to take a little taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little more salt or lemon juice.
- Peel and grate all the of the veggies
- Either ring out the moisture in a cheesecloth, or place grated veggies in a colander and press down with a paper towel to squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
- Mix in eggs, breadcrumbs, and a few pinches of salt.
- Heat oil over med-high heat. To test, drop a small amount of latke mix into the oil, if its sizzles right away the oil is ready.
- Drop desired amount of batter into pan, depending on whatever size you are making. I made small bite size latkes, so I fried about 5 at a time. If you are making larger latkes, be careful not to crowd the pan and bring the oil temperature down.
- Fry for about 2 or 3 minutes per side, until crispy and golden.
- Remove from the pan and place on paper towel to soak up any oil, top with a dollop of sauce.
- Pig out!
The combination of the really fresh sauce with the earthiness of beets and sweet potatoes is great. The carrot adds a little more natural sweetness and there is definitely a spicy kick from the chilies. All in all it is a really good bit for an appetizer, and can definitely be turned into a main course (just add a poached egg on top, yumm).
EDF was really fun! My first experience doing any sort of cooking demo, and hopefully not my last! One more shout out to Eleanor for the great pictures!