Some grandmothers pass down recipes for meatloaf and mashed potatoes, while others make the best lasagna, arroz con pollo, or sweet potato pie. For good Jewish boys and girls, though, nothing says grandma like a steaming bowl of Matzoh Ball Soup. And the upcoming Passover holiday makes those childhood memories even sweeter.
Traditionally served as part of the Seder meal, the toothsome dumplings are generally made by combining matzoh meal with eggs, water or broth, and oil or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat0. The mixture is rolled into balls, boiled, and then added to chicken soup, perhaps with a few chunked veggies or a smattering of parsley or dill thrown in for good measure. Debate rages eternal over whether the ideal matzoh ball is a sinker (substantial and dense) or a floater (light and fluffy), but personal preference generally comes down to whatever way your Bubby made them. Sinkers all the way!
So what better way to track grandma’s influence this holiday season than with a Matzoh Ball Crawl throughout the city? Whether you go for purely traditional, like the classic bowl at Blue Ribbon, or matzoh balls with a modern edge, like the ones in the “Deli Ramen” at Dassara, these local restaurants are serving up terrific bowls. And you don’t even need to be Jewish to appreciate them.
Mill Basin Deli
This 38-year-old Kosher delicatessen has won plenty of accolades for Pastrami. But just as impressive is their flying saucer-sized bowl of Matzoh Ball Soup, sided with an overflowing basket of soft rye bread. The golden broth is subtle and clean tasting, not overly salty or greasy, with one impressive orb (the perfect happy-medium between a sinker and floater), nestled in a moat of carrots and egg noodles. The soup is made fresh every day, using an old family recipe from owner Mark Schachner, but don’t bother probing him for details. “Our job is not to ask questions,” he said. “It’s to eat, enjoy, and savor the delicacy of it all.”
Ever had a craving for Pierogi, Cheese Blintzes, or Kielbasa and Eggs at four in the morning? This East Village diner has been dishing out hearty, Ukrainian favorites 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since 1954. Eastern European soups like Borscht, Cabbage, and Mushroom Barley are all fantastic, but you can’t beat their bowl of Matzoh Ball Soup. The long-simmered broth boasts an abundance of shredded chicken and vegetables, along with an oversized, parsley-flecked matzoh ball. Although if you’re strict about following dietary restrictions during Passover, you should probably avoid the hunk of Challah bread served alongside.
Blue Ribbon Brasserie
Brothers Bruce and Eric Bromberg have a sizeable empire of twelve Blue Ribbon restaurants in New York. And you can find a splendid Matzoh Ball Soup (inspired by their grandmother’s recipe, of course) at three of them. We particularly love the heady, fragrant broth, made from a whole chicken cooked down with aromatics. Schmaltz is used to add rich umami flavor to the matzoh balls, and seltzer gives them a lighter-than-air consistency. They’re also cooked separately in water before being added to the soup, so they don’t make the broth cloudy, or get overcooked. How can you argue with grandma’s time-tested technique?
This new Cobble Hill noodle shop has made waves with their signature “Deli Ramen,” inviting criticism by attempting to appeal to hardened Ramen-ya experts and good Jewish grandchildren alike. In this cross-cultural collaboration, miniature matzoh balls, springy egg noodles, and a length of Mile End smoked meat jockey for position in a bowl of celery-laced broth. Amazingly, the tender pastrami doesn’t shrivel into shoe leather after an extended bath in hot soup. And once integrated, the yolk of a barely poached egg takes the Chicken Tare-accented broth to stratospheric heights. Traditional? Not exactly. But somehow, we think Jewish Grandmas would approve.Read More
It’s old school meets new at Brooklyn’s hip, Jewish-Canadian deli, which expanded into Manhattan last year with an equally excellent sandwich shop. The classic Matzoh Ball Soup (offered at both locations), is an exercise in simplicity, containing one plank of celery, a hunk of parsnip, a wedge of carrot, a sprig of dill, and a single nubby and notable dense matzoh ball (aka a sinker) that had us reminiscing big time. But modernists will appreciate the chef’s Passover special,”The Whole Mishpucha,” which is served family-style in a cast iron crock. The flavorful broth is spiced with black pepper and loaded with goodies, like chicken galantine, chicken-stuffed wontons, ramen-style noodles, and of course, deliciously spongy matzoh balls.Read More
You can’t get more old school than this circa 1908 mecca of Jewish appetizing and smoked fish. They jokingly offer Jewish Penicillin (ie. Chicken Soup) “without a prescription,” and it’s well worth humoring. It’s available by the bowl at their sit-down restaurant, or to-go in quart-sized containers. The takeaway version comes with two very buoyant matzoh balls nestled inside, but it’s worth forking over the extra $2 for just a few more.
Although they’re one of our favorite foods, pastry-wrapped Potato Knishes are hardly Kosher for Passover. But there’s still plenty of holiday-friendly fare to nosh on at this small Queens diner, which has been making Jewish specialties in Forest Hills since 1952. The schmaltz-slicked Matzoh Ball Soup makes us seriously nostalgic, with airy, hand-formed matzoh balls, and oversized chunks of tender, white meat chicken and carrots. Follow that up with their Kosher Roast Chicken and a side of noodle kugel or not-so-traditional brisket pierogies.
With a name like Bubby’s, it’s no wonder this Tribeca spot is our go-to for classic comfort foods, like Potato Pancakes with Applesauce, Meatloaf and Gravy, and of course, big, steaming bowls of Matzoh Ball Soup. Owner Ron Silver’s matzoh balls are floater style, that’s code for unusually light and fluffy. It’s a Jewish thing. Theirs comes with a fragrant, homemade stock and chunks of fresh, organic veggies. And don’t forget to follow it up with a slice of Banana Cream, Sour Cherry, or Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.Read More