Rårakor is a true chameleon dish.
Potato cakes might not sound fancy, I know. But sit down at a posh Swedish restaurant and you can easily pay a couple of hundred crowns for this simple dish. That is, at least if it is topped with roe from Kalix. Or why not serve it as a starter for New Year’s Eve?
On the other side of the spectrum, you rummage around in the empty cupboards at home and find a few potatoes. Grate, fry for a few minutes, and devour it straight from the pan, topped with whatever leftovers you had at home.
Rårakor can be as simple or as elegant as you want.
Rårakor is one of those dishes that happen. It doesn’t need recipes or names.
Yes, it might seem ridiculous to be curious of the origin of something so simple, but it is hard to resist.
Unsurprisingly, the research turns up different claims of what a råraka actually is. Just potato, or pancake batter, too?
Luckily, I think I have found out who to blame for this confusion: the people of Småland.
Looking through the ads in Svenska Dagbladet in the 30s, a few ads promise “Småländska rårakor (raggmunkar)” as a “regional dish”. Meaning, in Småland, what I would call a
But, in 1935, Jochum in Svenska Dagbladet steps in to defend “my” råraka. As he complains about the state of traditional Swedish food, he finds that råraka is a dish often badly made. Cooks should make the potato cakes “without mixing them with milk and other matters”, which is a novelty of “recent, unredeemed times”. Instead, rårakor should have a crispy surface and ideally be fried in the grease of the previously fried pork. Well said.
How to make rårakor—Swedish potato cakes
Ideally, you’ll serve and devour the potato cakes right away, so you get the sublime crispiness. Leave them for a while, and the cakes start to secretly turn a bit blue. That makes this dish better for small companies or served as a starter. If you’re making this for several people, use more than one frying pan, or share them one at a time as they get ready.
Make sure to 1) use enough butter, 2) get the pan warm enough and 3) not mess too much with it in the beginning, and you’ll be fine.
You don’t need a recipe for this. Really. But, here it goes.
2-3 medium-sized firm potatoes per person (as a main dish)
butter, for frying (or oil, if you must)
salt and pepper
Fried pork side (or bacon) and lingonberry jam, or whatever you like.
- Peel and roughly grate the potatoes.
- Squeeze the excess liquid from the potatoes. You can use a sieve and a wooden spoon, or be a barbarian like me and use your hands.
- Mix the grated potato with salt and pepper.
- Heat up a frying pan (cast iron is perfect for this) with a generous knob of butter.
- If you’re serving rårakor with pork or bacon, fry the bacon first and keep it warm while frying the grated potato in the same frying pan.
- Spread out the grated potato (1 portion per pan). Fry it on both sides until it is crispy and golden and smells divine.
- Serve immediately.
Top these with whatever you have at home. The classic way is to enjoy them with pork sides (you can use bacon) and lingonberry jam. Another common way is to serve smaller rårakor topped with creme fraiche, roe, and red onion—a perfect starter. A hearty salad or whatever leftovers you have will