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Vegan Mofo is asking for us to share our regional dishes. Many people in the US will say this is a little bit of a tricky one. Yes, we do have foods we are proud of and only found in certain parts of the US, BUT we are a melting pot here. I think it becomes most obvious in places like New Jersey, where we are sandwiched between two major cities. It isn’t that we don’t have local foods, but it more like people say it is a “Philadelphia” food or a “New York City” kind-of food. It is more obvious to me, since I have went from North Jersey to South Jersey, and can see all the local foods get snatched by the cities.

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One very regional food is the Irish Potato. One might think two things- one that the food is really Irish and two that the food would have potatoes. I am not sure how this weirdo dish came to be, but it has no potatoes, and no Irish roots. The food gets it’s name because they resemble a small potato. And although they don’t have Irish roots, they are a seasonal treat with the Saint Patricks Day holiday.

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And if you are sitting here thinking “I’m from New Jersey and I’ve never heard of an Irish Potato!” then I am going to guess you are from Central/North Jersey. I never heard of these guys until I moved to Philadelphia. My roommates (one from Northeast Philly, the other from South Jersey) thought I was crazy that I never heard of these things. One told the story about how for class their assignment was to make a food from their heritage. So Italian kids made lasagna, German kids schnitzels, and Irish kids would make Irish potatoes. As laughable it maybe for a kid to mistake “American” food with “Irish” food they are a great food to make with kids. They are super sweet and super easy to make. You just need an electric mixer, or a really good potato masher.

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So what is an Irish potato made of? Well, they are like small candies on par with a fudge. They are pretty much just butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and coconut rolled with a cinnamon coating. As my roommate described it “They should be really disgusting, but you can’t stop eating them.” Oh I think I should note that most people use Crisco over butter in the recipe!

But I couldn’t just leave it be simple. I took another region dessert from the United States and mixed it. Needhams. These are a Maine treat that use potatoes, powder sugar, butter, and coconut flakes, that is covered in chocolate. The snack uses potatoes to balance all that sugar and fat, which is probably what Irish Potatoes need.

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I made the batch and sent to my husband’s work, putting it to the true locals test. Turned out that everyone loved it, and couldn’t taste the “vegan” parts of it. Plus most people liked how the potatoes cooled out the sweet parts.

I technically made this recipe almost 2 years ago before I “opened” the blog up. But I thought I should update the photos. I only had two pictures, and I remember taking it with a very-old not-so-hot camera. These are such a local food, that I think they need to be shared around more often.

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Irish Potatoes are a weird snack. Being from North Jersey, I never heard of them. You wouldn’t think driving an hour and half south would make such a cultural difference. Apparently, I was the only person in Philadelphia who didn’t know what an Irish Potato was. It’s such a big treat that there is a local factory that makes pre-made Irish Potatoes for the yearly demand during Saint Patrick’s Day. And I see them in every single supermarket.

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My roommates insisted to break my “Irish Potato” cherry and make some. To my surprise, there wasn’t anything Irish about it, nor was there any potatoes in there. The recipe was pretty simple, crisco (or butter if you are fancy), cream cheese, and coconut. Roll it in cinnamon. Bam! Done. If I remember correctly not liking them much, but I couldn’t help but grab more.

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But I am a sucker for local traditions. And seeing the popularity of cake pops and oreo truffles, I feel like it time for Irish Potatoes to shine. But I think they could be more creative, and more flavorful. I cut down on the fats, and added some leftover mashed potatoes. Sounds crazy, but this idea isn’t new. It is the basis for the Needham candies that are made in Maine.

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The result? I told my husband to take to candies to work and give them out. Nobody knew. Everyone commented on how they were some of the best Irish Potatoes, so as far as I can tell I improved on the recipe. One person said that they could taste a little bit of the potato once I revealed my recipe, and I agree. But I think it add a nice velvety layer to it, and makes them a little less rich (which means you can eat more right?)

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