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Reibekuchen is a pan-fried potato cake made with flour, shredded potatoes, and eggs, that is commonly eaten in and near the river that divides Germany from Belgium. These potato pancakes are served as a side dish with both salty and sweet foods. Reibekuchen is commonly served at Christmastime, but it is also eaten as a snack year round. They are usually topped with a gravy of spiced stewed apples similar to applesauce. This dish can also be called Kartoffelpuffer.
To make these potato pancakes, the potato is grated, mixed with eggs and onions, seasoned with salt and pepper, and formed into cakes, which are fried in a pan by floating them in a deep reservoir of hot oil. Traditionally, this recipe is prepared with the starchiest potatoes available. In Germany, this dish is most often made with Bintje potatoes, which are similar to Yukon potatoes. Reibekuchen pancakes are similar to latkes, a traditional Jewish potato pancake, except many latkes are made without flour. After the pancakes are cooked, they are placed on paper towels to drain excess oil before they are served.
Whether they are served with salty or sweet dishes, reibekuchen are almost always served with apfelkompott, an apple gravy made with peeled stewed apples, sugar, and spices. Apfelkompott can be cooked until the apples are soft and chunky, or it can be blended into a smooth sauce that is close to applesauce. It can be spooned atop the pancakes or served on the side as a dip.
Reibekuchen originates from and is most often eaten in a region called Rhineland, which refers to an area near the river Rhine. Though this river primarily divides Germany and Belgium, Rhineland also includes parts of Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Reibekuchen is most often found sold by vendors at German events like street fairs and carnivals, but this dish is also frequently made at home.
Though potato pancakes are eaten year round, they are also consumed on special occasions, like on Christmas or during certain types of fast. In the areas of the world in which reibekuchen are popular, they are frequently eaten by Catholics on their meatless Fridays. In Catholicism, meatless Fridays, also called the Friday Fast, are days of abstinence from flesh meat observed in remembrance the Crucifixion.