Avi Ben Perez hails from Jerusalem but relocated to Prague with wife Diana Ester and daughter Keshet in 2003 when he was offered work for an international company. In 2014 he decided to strike out on his own, leaving the corporate sector behind and opening Vršovice café and speciality foods shop, Patisserie Nofech.
“I chose this small and beautiful shop in Prague 10 on purpose, because I wanted to be a part of an interesting neighborhood, and on Kodaňská street there are really interesting people and a lot of foreigners,” says Avi.
This week he and his family will celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday of light. “Every year we celebrate in Chabad, a Jewish organization which exists in many countries. There are kids, candles, and a great atmosphere.”
A big part of that celebration involves eating traditional sufganiot jelly doughnuts and latkes, potato pancakes similar to the Czech bramboračky, by the light of the Menorah. Latkes are eaten during Hanukkah to symbolize the ancient lamps that held just enough oil for one day but magically burned for eight.
“This recipe comes from many years of tradition in my lovely country Israel. Most people prepare them during Hanukkah, but each family has its own way.”
The Perez family version includes added vegetables and requires no speciality ingredients just “love” and “happiness.” Says Avi, “Every year it somehow feels so authentic. We are celebrating a miracle, just like 2,500 years ago.”
Avi Ben Perez’s Hanukkah Latkes
Makes 6-7 medium latkes
1 large onion
1/2 cup flour
3 tsp sesame seeds
olive oil, for frying
Clean and peel the vegetables. Cut up the onion. Shred the vegetables into one large bowl and then squeeze the mass to get rid of any excess liquids. Add flour, eggs, salt and pepper, and sesame seeds and mix. Shape the vegetable mixture into small pancakes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the latke on both sides, gently flattening the pieces, until crisp and golden brown. Transfer latkes to a plate lined with paper towel (to soak up some of the oil).
Latkes can be served as is, or with any kind of soft cheese or tahini.
Patisserie Nofech is celebrating Hanukkah this week by handing out free jelly doughnuts to kids through Friday December 11.