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Food Wanderlust: Potato Edition

As a follow up to my love letter to doughnuts of all types, I bring you a post about another favourite food of mine: potatoes.

What can’t you do with potatoes? I’ll let Samwise Gamgee (from arguably one of the best travelling movies, ever!) tell you:

Seriously though, there isn’t a lot you can’t do with potatoes – they’re a versatile ingredient with many uses (and obviously, the more they come into contact with oil and salt, the better) and you’d be hard-pressed to find a country that doesn’t do something with them.

So, please join me as I look at potato dishes I’d like to eat (or in some case, I already have) on one of my next trips.

Patatje Oorlog – Holland

Thinly cut and deep-fried potatoes topped mayonnaise, satay sauce (peanut), and diced raw onions.

I’m about 100% sure that 95% of people who go to Amsterdam buy themselves a delicious cone of patatje (the Dutch nickname for fries)…or two.

You can get the cone of fries with a range of different toppings, but what I specifically had on my list was the patatje oorlog or ‘war fries’ (named as such because apparently the ‘mess’ of toppings looks like a battleground).

What I love about it is its mix of textures (crunchy cold onion and crispy fries with soft fluffy centres) and flavours (salty fries, spicy satay, slightly sweet mayonnaise) that makes for the best lunch! Or maybe an afternoon snack if you’re sharing.

Patatje oorlog in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Photo: Karis Bouher

Gnocchi – Italy

Small dumplings based on potato, flour, egg and seasoning. Other ingredients, such as semolina, cheese, cornmeal and breadcrumbs are sometimes used.

Unless you know what you’re doing, gnocchi can be hard to get right. That’s why you’ll never find me making them, but you will find me ordering them when I’m in a restaurant (although there never seems to be enough in the bowl to satisfy).

You just can’t go wrong with pillowy parcels of potato, usually topped with some kind of delicious sauce. Every region in Italy has its own variation and serving style, so wherever you’re going in Italy, look up the regional specialty and give it a go!

Gnocchi at Root in Bristol, UK. Photo: Chris

Tortilla – Spain

An omelette made with eggs and potatoes (and sometimes onion).

My cousin in France who happens to be a Spanish teacher (and has for obvious reasons spent a lot of time in Spain) first introduced me to tortilla. She said she added too much salt, but I loved it anyway. You can’t really go wrong with potato and egg!

Tortilla at Paco Tapas in Bristol, UK. Photo: Chris

Potato pancakes – pretty much everywhere

Grated (usually) potato mixed with various ingredients (depending on the location) and pan-fried.

I remember making Kartoffelpuffer in a German class in primary school and I’ve loved potato pancakes ever since.

Luckily, you can get some version of them in many countries; there are so many variations, from rosti to latkes to korean potato pancake to polish potato pancake.

Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and you can top them with delicious things like sour cream and smoked salmon or just on their own!

Potato pancakes in Warsaw, Poland. Photo: Karis Bouher

Potato scallops – Australia

Slices of potato, coated in batter and deep-fried.

Depending on where you are in Australia, you might have to ask for a potato scallop, a potato cake or a potato fritter. In the case of the last two, you’d be wrong because it’s definitely scallop.

Anywho, it’s a crispy shell of batter with a filling of fluffy potato (obviously with a nice pinch of salt). You can get them in the UK, but there’s just something about them that aren’t the same.

Photo scallops. Photo: Mountain Harvest Foods

Poutine – Canada

Thinly cut and deep-fried potatoes topped with cheese curds and gravy.

Another one of those delicious dishes that start with a base of chips and finishes with other moreish things; in this case, cheese curds and gravy. I’ve never had poutine before and I absolutely refuse to have it until my feet are touching Canadian soil.

Poutine at Le Champlain in Quebec City, Canada. Photo: B

Potato salad – pretty much everywhere

A cold, dressed salad with the main ingredient being cubes of boiled potato. Other ingredients are often added, such as ham, bacon, egg, onions, and gherkins. The dressing is most often made of mayonnaise, but may also contain other ingredients.

I will say this about potato salad: I make a bloody good one – using the right mayonnaise is the key, though. You’ll find some form of potato salad in a lot of places including Australia, the US, Germany, Korea and Japan (at least that’s where I’ve eaten it).

Each place has its own style and they are all delicious in their own way. While I enjoy mine, I also love potato salads in Japan -– they’re usually part of a wider meal.

Potato salad. Photo Wikicommons

Chorrillana – Chile

Thinly cut, deep-fried potatoes topped with various types of meat (often beef), sausages, eggs (sometimes scrambled, sometimes fried) and fried onions.

There’s something about chips topped with meaty goodness and fried egg. When I was looking up dishes to include, I came across this one and knew it had to go on my ‘to try’ list.

It might be a while off before I get to Chile, but I know where to start when I get there!

Chorrillana. Photo source.

Baked potato – United Kingdom

Potato baked in the oven until cooked and then served with a range of different toppings, such as baked beans and cheese or tuna and sweet corn.

The humble baked potato. I must admit that while you can get them in Australia they were never really as prevalent as they are in the UK.

While they really aren’t something I’ve been able to get on board with, the good thing about them is that they can be topped with almost anything and they make for a filling meal that doesn’t require a huge amount of effort. That said, if you’re in the UK and looking for a potato dish, you’re probably going to have fish and chips on your ‘to eat’ list.

I chose baked potato for this list because it seems like such a staple, and I know people who would genuinely live on them for the rest of their lives if they could. Ergo, the humble baked potato must be doing something right.

Baked potato. Photo: BBC

Steak frites – France/Belgium

Thinly cut potato, deep-fried and seasoned with salt, served with a steak.

Where does one start when it comes to potato dishes in France? Gratin, Dauphinois, Fondant, Anna, Tartiflette, Dauphine, frites…I could go on.

I’ve chosen steak frites as my dish for France, because it’s simple and tasty. Pop a nice little mound of confit shallots and you’re in heaven.

Steak frites in Paris, France. Photo: Karis Bouher

Pierogies – Central and Eastern Europe

Filled dumplings cooked in boiling water and sometimes pan-fried. There are many types of filling combinations, but for now I’m talking about pierogi ruskie (potato and cheese).

While researching this I found out there’s a pierogi festival in Krakow, which is definitely now on my list of events to go to. Who needs music festivals when you can have dumplings!

Seriously though, you just can’t go wrong with carb wrapped in carb topped (or dipped in) with delicious sour cream.

Pierogi at Medziotoju uzeiga in Kaunas, Lithuania. Photo: Karis Bouher

Food Wanderlust: Potato Edition

Have I missed any potato goodness that I need to try? Let me know in the comments!

Karis is an Aussie living in Bristol. During the working week, she works in communications, and in her spare time she’s scouring the Internet for cool places to visit and great travel deals, as well as talking about food on her podcast, At the Sauce. She loves good food and history, so her travel itineraries usually reflect this. Places she loves include Vietnam, Japan, France and Spain. Places she can’t wait to get to include Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Poland and Georgia.

2 Comments

  • Ania

    I do love a potato dish and would like to try more of these! Weirdly, I’ve never had Patatje Oorlog in all my visits of the Netherlands – mainly because I wasn’t sure if they fry them in animal fat. Will resolve to seek out a veggie-friendly stall next time I go!

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