Bosnian Potato Pancake Recipe Bridged Language Gap With Grandma: NPR
Merjem Mededovic/Collage by NPR
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As a young child, Merjem Mededovic spent her early years in Germany before she and her family moved to the United States, after fleeing war-torn Sarajevo. When they returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2003, Mededovic was not fluent in the language. Her grandmother helped bridge that gap.
“With both my parents working, my grandmother took care of me and my sister during the day,” Mededovic said. “She would pick us up from school. She would cook lunch and make sure we did our homework. And often she would cook dinner as well.”
Mededovic often joined his grandmother in the kitchen as she cooked dinner and learned the names of different things in Bosnian.
“She was very, very, very patient teaching me how to prepare all the food and what each ingredient is called. We would go to the markets together and she would even show me how to haggle,” Mededovic said. “So it was a very natural way for me to absorb the whole culture and the whole language.”
One of the dishes Mededovic watched her grandmother make was kljukusa – a potato and onion dish she describes as a cross between a “latke and a baked pancake”.
Her grandmother struggled to describe the dish until she called it the “cousin” of pita, a type of cheese pie the family eats. It is similar to spanakopita.
“Because of our language barriers, my grandma didn’t know how to explain it so she was like, ‘Do you know pita? Well, that’s pita’s cousin.’ Since that day we now call kljukusa ‘cousin’,” Mededovic said. “It led to some fun conversations… ‘I have a cousin for dinner tonight’ or ‘I was really craving a cousin. “”
The unique name also got a lot of laughs, Mededovic said, especially when talking about the dish and having to remember that it’s actually called kljukusa by everyone, not by cousin.
The hash brown is often topped with a garlicky yogurt sauce, and Mededovic said his family likes to eat it with raw quartered onions and sliced tomatoes, with salt on the side.
Today, Mededovic lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she is working to complete her doctorate. in biomedical engineering. She said she often calls home in Bosnia and talks with her grandmother about recipes and more.
“We chat very frequently. She’s been a really big supporter,” Mededovic said. “So whenever I have problems and difficulties with school…I call her and she reminds me to be patient, to be consistent, to not give up.”
Recipe submitted by Merjem Mededovic
Ann Arbour, Mich.
- 1 pound potatoes, grated (about 2 large potatoes)
- 1 onion, grated
- 1/4 cup oil
- 3/4 cup and a little milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 tbsp pepper
- Optional: 1 tablespoon Vegeta, which is a spice blend like Herbamare
For the yogurt sauce
- 1 cup liquid yogurt (similar to kefir, but can thin Greek yogurt)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3 garlic cloves, grated
Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking dish (large baking dish with sides at least 2 inches high) by generously oiling it.
Grate the potatoes and onion into a large bowl. In another bowl, combine oil, milk and eggs. Add the liquid mixture to the potatoes and mix.
Slowly add flour, salt and pepper to make a paste. It should have a thick, thick cake batter consistency. If too runny, add flour; if too thick, add milk.
Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
Mix the ingredients for the yogurt sauce and pour them over the hot kljukusa. Leave to rest for at least 10-15 minutes.
Enjoy. We often eat it with an onion, cucumber and tomato salad, or with just raw onion or spring onion with a little salt.