An innovative spin on a traditional Jewish dish: matzah ball soup - Ahulan

An innovative spin on a traditional Jewish dish: matzah ball soup


As a way to celebrate both her Jewish ancestry and her Mexican background, Fany Gerson makes a matzah ball soup with a Mexican twist by adding fiery chilies, avocado, coriander, and lime.

The ingredients of matzah ball soup have origins in the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. During the Exodus from Pharaoh’s Egypt, the Jewish people were freed from servitude, and the Israelites brought matzah, an unleavened bread that looks like a big, thin cracker, with them. Symbolic and ceremonial, the Passover Seder (this year from April 22nd to the 30th) involves a recounting of the biblical tale and the eating of matzah, as instructed by God.

It is difficult to determine when exactly Jews began grinding matzah to create the matzah meal used for the soup balls, as is the case with many culturally significant meals. Similar bread dumplings, like the German Knödel, may be found throughout Eastern Europe, according to the Yiddish term (kneidlach). The Jewish recipe called for day-old bread, but the ingredients were really matzah flour, eggs, water, and schmaltz, which is usually chicken or goose fat. The balls were then cooked in boiling water. A dish that many now affectionately call “Jewish penicillin” was made by serving matzah balls in chicken broth.


Served on Shabbat and Passover, it is the classic meal of Ashkenazi Jews, who hail from Central and Eastern Europe. Soup is more than just a meal with deep Jewish roots; it’s a comfort food that brings back happy memories of childhood for many Jews. Fany Gerson, who started the catering business and food truck La Newyorkina in New York City, can attest to that.

There is a little Jewish community in Mexico City, where Gerson spent his childhood. Escapees from the Spanish Inquisition in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries were known as Conversos, and they were the first Jews to settle in Mexico. Immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East arrived in large numbers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, contributing to the community’s steady expansion throughout the years. One example is Gerson’s great-grandmother, who left Ukraine in 1926. Gerson is carrying on the Jewish culinary tradition of Eastern Europe.


“The soup has always been my favorite,” she remarks. “And my grandmother had it often, not just during the High Holidays.”

The matzah balls Gerson ate as a child were little and very hard, in sharp contrast to the bigger, fluffier kind served had most Jewish-American delis. The chicken broth was clear and flavorful.

“You could almost eat [the matzah ball] with a fork and a knife,” she pointed out. “But [my family and I] love them.”

After relocating to the metropolis, Gerson got acquainted with the matzah ball as it is known in New York. She was initially under the impression that the deli was ill-equipped to prepare matzah balls. She gradually came to the realization that maybe her grandma had the distinctive spin.

Gerson didn’t choose one cooking technique over another; she fashioned her matzah ball soup after the Mexicana method. In an effort to honor both cultures, she mixed typically Ashkenazi Jewish soup with Mexican ingredients like avocado, coriander, and chilies.

The matzah ball’s texture was something she labored with for quite some time, she adds. It’s a hybrid of hard and fluffy qualities, with a touch of size to boot. Gerson finds that beating eggs at room temperature with a mixture of parsley, cilantro, dill, and chives yields the greatest results. She is not, however, very particular about the herbs. “There are moments when I’m down to two of them,” she reveals. “And that’s okay.”

At least a day or two before she intends to whip up the matzah balls, Gerson gets her broth ready. When all that’s required to prepare the dinner is the matzah balls and the garnish, meal prep becomes much more bearable.

Featuring 135 holiday dishes from Jewish tables throughout the world, this dish is part of the March 2024 publication The Jewish Holiday Table: A World of dishes, Traditions & Stories to Celebrate All Year Long. Along with Gerson’s Ukrainian Mexican Seder, you’ll find a Persian Rosh Hashanah dinner and an Iraqi Purim buffet.

Jewish Food Society founder and author Naama Shefi, a kibbutznik from Israel who now lives in New York City, describes the book as “a love letter to our diverse culinary heritage.” The organization’s mission is to preserve and celebrate Jewish cuisine. “It’s a celebration of holiday traditions, from families all around the world.”

From Soviet Jewry to Morocco and Yemen, the book follows the Jewish agricultural cycle, with four or five family meals shown on each festival.

“We really try to emphasise the incredible diversity [of the Jewish people],” Shefi adds.

Los Santos Penny Matzah ball soup with a Mexican twist, with avocado, coriander, and chili peppers. (Penny De Los Santos is the creditor)Los Santos Penny
Matzah ball soup with a Mexican twist, with avocado, coriander, and chili peppers.

(Penny De Los Santos is the creditor)

Mexican Matzah Ball Soup with Cilantro and Chiles

According to Fany Gerson…

Makes about 24 matzah balls and 6–8 servings.

Making matzah ball soup shouldn’t cause you any concern. Gerson assures us that her recipe is “very user-friendly”—even if this is our first time making matzah ball soup. To make the matzah balls, Gerson recommends using an ice cream scoop to measure out the mixture for each ball. Before boiling, moisten your hands with water so the balls don’t adhere to your skin.

Recipe Items

To make the broth:

One big whole chicken, weighing 2.2-2.7 kg (5-6 lbs), or one smaller bird added with 8 wings

half a white onion (about 225g or 8 oz).

Cut four medium carrots into rounds that are 6mm (½ inch) in diameter and weigh about 225g (8 oz).

About 170 grams (6 ounces) of celery, peeled and chunked

One leek, halved lengthwise, well cleaned, and thinly sliced ****

One or two serrano peppers, or other spicy, fresh chili peppers, cut in half lengthwise

One huge clove of garlic:

Two bay leaves.

8 stems of coriander

Eight sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

2 sprigs of epazote, if desired

1/3 cup of kosher salt

Around five to six whole black peppercorns

Little over four quarts of water

As for the balls of matzah:

-Five big eggs

-1/4 cup (145 grams or 5 ounces) of matzah meal

-2 and 1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt

-Half a teaspoon of black pepper, freshly ground

-Half a teaspoon of baking powder

A-bout half a teaspoon of baking soda

-½ cup of schmaltz, duck fat, bone marrow, or vegetable oil that has melted

-1/4 cup of finely chopped white onion (30g / 1oz)

-Fresh herbs (e.g., chives, flat-leaf parsley, and dill)—three tablespoons, chopped finely

Regarding the garnish:

Finely cut one small white onion, which weighs about 85g or 3oz.

Chop coarsely two serrano peppers or one jalapeño after removing the seeds and core.

1 cup of fresh coriander, weighing 30 grams (1 ounce)

chopped, pitted, peeled, and halved avocado (or two)

wedges from three or four limes


The first step

Prepare the broth. Chicken, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, chile, bay leaves, cilantro, parsley, epazote (if used), salt, peppercorns, and water should all be added to a large stockpot (at least 10 liters capacity). You may need to add extra water to make sure the ingredients are covered.

Second Step

Over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer until partly covered, stirring occasionally. After 50 to 60 minutes of simmering, partially covering the pot, and scraping off any froth as required, the chicken should be thoroughly cooked. Take it out of the heat.

Phase 3

Transfer the chicken (and wings, if used) to a basin to chill after carefully removing them from the broth. Remove the chicken’s flesh, shred it, and put it aside in a dish once it’s cold enough to handle. Put the skin aside.

Section 4

Put the chicken bones back in the saucepan and boil the soup for another hour or two, adding water as required to keep everything covered. After the broth has cooled a little, pour it into a new saucepan and put it aside; throw out the veggies and chicken bones.

Phase 5

Roll the matzah into balls. After separating three eggs, transfer the whites to a big grease-free basin while reserving the yolks in a smaller bowl. Be careful not to let the yolks mix with the whites. Mix the matzo meal with the salt, pepper, baking powder, and baking soda in a separate large dish. Whisk to mix.

Phase 6

With the three egg yolks, schmaltz, shredded onion, and herbs whisked together in a medium bowl, combine the two whole eggs. Use a handheld electric mixer or your hands to vigorously beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are achieved. The combination may seem stiff at first, but it will relax as you add additional beaten egg whites. After you stir the schmaltz mixture into the matzah meal mixture, fold in one-third of the beaten egg whites until combined. To remove any streaks, gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Place a plastic wrap sheet on top of the batter and set in the fridge for about 30 minutes, or until it becomes firm.

Stage 7

Put some water in a small dish and place it close to where you will be working. Place 20g of the matzah batter on a baking sheet by scooping up rounded spoonful. Carefully form balls out of each scoop of batter by moistening your palms with water.

Stage 8

After seasoning the broth to taste with more salt, reduce heat to medium-high and simmer for a few minutes. Carefully add the matzah balls to the boiling soup and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until they are pliable and fully cooked.

Chapter 9

Add the shredded chicken to the broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Ladle chicken broth into individual soup bowls, top with a few matzah balls, and serve. Put the garnishes out on the table for the guests to help themselves.

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