Last fall, my friend Susan Bralower and I did a trade. She taught me how to make matzo ball soup and her famous brisket, and I taught her how to make Asian scallion pancakes and Japanese dumplings.
I was reminded of our fun cooking evening tonight as I was craving some warm soup to make this dreary, cold Spring day a little nicer. As I was prepping, my husband came into the kitchen and asked, "What are you making?" I replied, "Matzo ball soup."
He thought it was funny that an Asian gal was making a Jewish soup for her Filipino and Irish family members.
I decided to make it a "Jasian" (Jewish-Asian) soup by adding some pork wontons to the soup. Why not? Both soups on their own are famous comfort foods. Also, my picky family members could decide whether they wanted to eat either matzo balls or wontons, or have both together.
I googled "matzo ball wonton soup," and nothing came up in the entire internet universe. So I will be the first to post a recipe! I'm excited about that.
One of the reasons it may not have come up is that throwing pork wontons in matzo ball soup is NOT kosher, both for the pork and the pasta wrapper. But since we are not a kosher household, I did not worry about the infraction. I also used baking powder in the matzo balls, and that's not kosher either as it is a chemical leavener. Even the matzo meal I used clearly said on the box, "Not for Passover Use!"
Clearly I am out of order for Passover. A quick substitution of chicken filling, however, might make this soup an option for my Jewish friends on other days.
The results? Fantastic. My family members could customize their bowls, and to finish off their soups, they could add soy sauce and sesame oil.
I am not an expert on matzo balls, but I know that I like them fluffy and soft. To that end, the tips my friend Susan have given me have come in handy, and I will pass them on to you:
1) Following the recipe on the back of the Streit's matzo meal box works just fine.
2) Add seltzer and/or baking powder to keep the matzo balls fluffy. This may not be allowed if you are keeping kosher, but if not, they work great.
3) DO NOT overmix the batter, which will result in tough matzo balls. Mix together until just incorporated.
4) You must refrigerate the matzo mixture for at least 30 minutes. This is so the matzo meal can absorb the liquid. You will notice that when you make the mixture, it will seem a little loose. After its resting time, the batter will have firmed up. Do not remix. Just go to the matzo ball making phase.
5) DO NOT overhandle the mixture when making the matzo balls. Moisten your palms and gently and lightly roll into golf ball size balls. I made them slightly smaller, as I didn't want them to be significantly bigger than the wontons.
6) Simmer in salted water. I asked Susan why she just didn't cook them in the chicken broth, and she said they would absorb too much of the broth, and you wouldn't have any left for soup. If you have enough broth, you could cook them in the broth, but if not, salted water does the trick.
7) DO NOT open the lid once the matzo balls are cooking. I suspect this is because you want the steam to build up in the pot, so that it will cook the parts of the matzo balls that are sticking up out of the water. Having completely forgotten Susan's advice, I did lift up the cover to see if the water was boiling and not simmering. Oops. My matzo balls were fine, but it's probably worth not risking it if you're making it.
Chicken broth (Homemade or 3 cartons of College Broth chicken broth)
2-3 carrots, cleaned, peeled and sliced
2-3 celery stalks, cleaned, and sliced
18 wontons (I had these in my freezer)
1 batch of matzo balls from the recipe on the back of the Streit's matzo meal box
Condiments: soy sauce, sesame oil
Prepare your matzo balls first (see recipe below).
Bring chicken broth to a simmer in a Dutch oven.
While chicken broth is heating, saute carrots and celery pieces in a tbs. of olive oil for 3-4 minutes.
When chicken broth is simmering, add carrots, celery, the pre-cooked matzo balls, and the wontons.
Simmer for 10 minutes until vegetables are tender and wontons are cooked. Add fresh chopped parsley to finish.
Everyone can serve themselves and customize their bowls, by getting both matzo balls and wontons, or sticking to either matzo balls and wontons. Diners can also add soy sauce and sesame oil to their individual bowls to taste.
1 cup Streit's matzo meal (or other matzo meal mix)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup oil or chicken fat (schmaltz)
1/4 cup seltzer or water
1 tsp. kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tsp. baking powder (optional)
In a bowl, beat eggs. Add seltzer water, oil, salt, pepper and baking powder. Whisk together well.
Add matzo meal and stir until incorporated. Mixture will be a little loose.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour to 1 hour. It can also rest overnight.
When you are ready to cook the matzo balls, fill a large pot (e.g., a 5-quart dutch oven) with water and bring it to a boil. Add kosher salt to the water to make it salty.
While the water is coming to a boil, take the mixture out of the fridge and make matzo balls. Moisten palms with cold water and make matzo balls the size of a golf ball (they will expand and get much bigger doing cooking). When making the matzo balls, handle them gently and lightly in order to make fluffy matzo balls. Do not densely pack the balls or overhandle the mixture. Put finished balls on a plate or cookie sheet until you are done forming the matzo balls.
When water is boiling, reduce the heat to low or simmer. Add the matzo balls, making sure they have enough room to move and float. Cover and do not open during the cooking process. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove balls with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl or cookie sheet.
To finish, simmer the matzo balls in chicken broth for 10-15 minutes before serving.
If you don't want to use all the matzo balls you just made, you can put them on a lined cookie sheet, not touching each other, and flash freeze them. When they are frozen, put them in a Ziploc baggie for future use. Or you can freeze them in chicken broth.