All The Things I Eat

Matzo Ball Soup

By on Wednesday, November 17th, 2021 at 9:45 am

matzo ball soup

Matzo Ball Soup has been termed “Jewish penicillin,” for its ability to revive the ill and keep the healthy from getting sick. We wanted to order some for delivery the other day, and it turns out we live in a matzo ball soup desert.

I was shocked we couldn’t have any soup delivered. It wasn’t hard to make, but I didn’t want to cook.

The cold weather had taken us by surprise, and with an infant in daycare, even wearing a mask all the time still leads us to occasionally becoming infected with a cold. All we wanted was some matzo ball soup but Seamless didn’t have any options.

I ran through the list of places I might find the soup and realized there weren’t any in the neighborhood. At least I knew I could find the ingredients on the corner.

Although I am not Jewish, growing up in north Jersey means matzo ball soup is available everywhere. There isn’t a diner I can recall that didn’t have it on the menu. Sure, some matzo ball soup was better than others, but it was always available. I didn’t think living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn would leave me short on soup.

Matzo ball soup in its simplest form is broth, usually chicken broth, brought to a boil with egg-sized dumplings made from matzo meal. Matzo is Jewish, unleavened bread most commonly eaten during passover.

Not everyone agrees, but I like to keep matzo around for general consumption because it is basically a large flat cracker. The chocolate covered matzo is also a great salty sweet treat, but not very good for making dumplings. And yet, I actually didn’t have any matzo, so I needed to head off to the store.

The easiest way to make matzo ball soup is to start with a package of matzo meal mix. My go to brand for this is Streits or Manischewitz. There are other brands, but I’ve never encountered them until Goolging around to write this. Streit’s apparently makes a spelt matzo ball mix which makes me want to try that variety now too.

Matzo meal packages are sold as just the matzo or with a soup mix. The soup mix tastes a bit like Lipton’s powdered soup, so I would always use a can of broth I season myself or even a bouillon cube.

The matzo meal needs eggs and oil to be mixed as well, so be sure to have those around. Mix the matzo with the egg and oil according to the package. There isn’t much of a secret here other than to follow the directions. The matzo also needs to sit for at least twenty minutes before making the dumplings, but they can sit longer than that in the refrigerator. This gives you plenty of time to make a soup from scratch.

Matzo ball soup

I chopped up a carrot with big medallions. A lot of north Jersey diner matzo ball soup will not be anything more than broth, carrots, and the dumplings, but I like to make it into a heartier chicken soup. I added in celery, onion and extra garlic. After cooking this soffritto in oil until the onions were clear, I added the broth and brought it all to boil.

In my experience, since the broth is usually chicken, the majority of the homemade matzo ball soup has included chicken. That said, the increasing number of Jewish vegetarians in my life in recent years has meant more people swapping in vegetable broth. I had some chicken breast so I diced it up and threw it in too.

By now the matzo meal is read to be turned into balls. My preference is to hand form all of them before tossing them into the boiling broth. This way they can all be a consistent size without leaving anyone behind. It should be a wet enough dough to hold their shape.

Diners will tend to have very large matzo balls. Usually they fill the bowl with a single dumpling and spoon broth around it. I’m sure this is a labor saving device, but I prefer the small balls because they cook more evenly.

Once the balls hit the broth, they begin absorbing moisture. They need at least ten to fifteen minutes to cook, and will continue to get softer the longer they do. It’s easy to end up with a soup that has no broth if they cook too long. The same is true for saving the soup over night. One way to avoid this is reserving the leftover dumplings save them isolated from the soup. They will also expand as the matzo is like a natural sponge.

The matzo puffs up much larger than the original size.

We made the soup, and by the next morning we were feeling great.

matzo ball soup in a bowl

Garlic Soup

By on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 at 5:08 am

Garlic Soup

Garlic might not be the first ingredient you think of when it comes to making soup, and yet a good garlic soup is one of the greatest treats on a spoon.

You might not think so, but garlic has a bit of sugar in the bulb. Adding heat helps release the sweetness of the garlic, and reduces the bitterness. The garlic stock doesn’t arrive alone either. An egg is poached in the soup so that the soft yoke thickens the base.

I’ve also relied on this garlic soup as a substitute for chicken soup when feeling sick; not only is garlic good for the immune system, but even with a head cold, you can taste it.

La Conguita Restaurant
351 Grove Street
Jersey City

Beef Ball Soup

By on Thursday, July 19th, 2012 at 6:35 am

This Vietnamese noodle soup has lots of floating meatballs.

Normally I order beef soup, but in an effort to experiment, I wanted to try out the beef meatballs. The soup was good, but in retrospect I rather have had the sliced beef. The addition of plum sauce and sriracha turned the broth into a glorious red-brown elixir, but the balls didn’t really add to the flavor.

Nha Trang Place
249 Newark Avenue
Jersey City

French Onion Soup

By on Thursday, July 12th, 2012 at 6:40 am

French Onion soup from Satis in Jersey City

French style onion soup was a childhood fad. I used to order it at every restaurant meal when it was offered. Since then I’ve learned that not all French onion soups are broiled equally.

Its rare I’ll order the soup now. Too often something better is on the menu. But Satis gets things right.

212 Washington Street
Jersey City

Tortilla Soup

By on Friday, July 6th, 2012 at 5:44 am

Sometimes you go to a place expecting to get middle eastern food and end up getting Mexican style tortilla soup.

That’s what happened one night in Williamsburg having waited too long to find some food. While the soup doesn’t look like much, it was surprisingly good in flavor, although not quite as hearty as I’ve had before.

Bushwick Pita Palace
243 Bushwick Avenue