Potato pancakes are shallow-fried pancakes of grated or ground potato, flour and egg, often flavored with grated onion or garlic and seasoning. Potato pancakes may be topped with a variety of condiments, ranging from the savory (such as sour cream or cottage cheese) to the sweet (such as apple sauce or sugar), or they may be served ungarnished. Potato pancakes are sometimes made from mashed potatoes to produce pancake-shaped croquettes.
Latkes (Yiddish: לאַטקע) are traditionally eaten by Jews during the Hanukkah festival. The oil for cooking the latkes is symbolic of the oil from the Hanukkah story that kept the Second Temple of ancient Israel lit with a long-lasting flame that is celebrated as a miracle. Prior to the introduction of the potato to the Old World, latkes were, and in some places still are, made from a variety of other vegetables, cheeses, legumes, or starches, depending on the available local ingredients and foods of the various places where Jews lived. Despite the popularity of latkes and tradition of eating them during Hanukkah, they are hard to come by in stores or restaurants in Israel, having been largely replaced by the Hanukkah doughnut due to local economic factors, convenience and the influence of trade unions.
The word "latke" itself is derived (via Yiddish) from the Russian/Ukrainian word латка meaning "patch." The word לביבה leviva, the Hebrew name for latke, has its origins in the Book of Samuel's description of the story of Amnon and Tamar.Some interpreters have noted that the homonym לבב levav means "heart," and the verbal form of l-v-v occurs in the Song of Songs as well.
Latkes need not necessarily be made from potatoes. Numerous modern recipes call for the addition of ingredients such as onions and carrots.