At Hanukkah, Mamaleh’s Deli in Boston, Brookline and Cambridge makes roughly 10,000 latkes. That’s a lot of potatoes, and a lot of work. It’s not the most lucrative endeavor, either. But for the owners, three of whom are Jewish, it’s a true labor of love.
“The deli business is tough because the food requires a lot of time and effort. That, mixed with the high price of good ingredients, means slim margins. As a result, so many classic Jewish delis have closed over the years, and the presence of this food has faded. For us, it’s important to keep the storytelling and historical recipes alive, as well as the feeling of community and comfort that’s central to the experience of the deli,” says co-owner Rachel Sundet. “Now more than ever, it feels really important to have a space that is welcoming and positively Jewish—a place that honors and celebrates Jewish traditions and provides good feelings through food.”
The deli serves latkes (plus pastrami sandwiches, fish platters and matzo ball soup) all year long, but potato production ramps up during the holidays. It’s an exhaustive process. Cooks shred potatoes by the case, and then fold in flats of beaten eggs and chopped onion. The mixture is cooked in batches throughout the day, served fresh from hot oil, usually with sour cream and applesauce (or both).
Mamaleh’s also serves about 3,400 sufganiyot each season, shaping the dough by hand and then frying and filling the doughnuts with chocolate cream and raspberry jam each morning, also by hand. It’s a tangible, physical way to provide a bit of tasty joy during a season that’s been especially difficult, Sundet says.
“With so much heaviness over the past two months, this moment is an opportunity to embrace some joy and hope: a much-needed relief. Additionally, I think in many ways, current events have made people feel more connected to their Jewish identity, so this moment has become a chance to be loud and proud about being Jewish,” she says.
Want to learn how to make your own latkes, Mamaleh’s-style? Check out the video below.