Surviving Passover: Kimchi Matzah Ball Soup
Passover is not Passover without matzah, it’s required. But year after year of the same food gets really old. Especially when it’s matzah. After all, the Bible calls it “the bread of affliction” (Deut. 16:3) for a reason.
Chabad.org explains matzah this way, “The event organizer apparently neglected to choose a ‘taste theme’ for this evening’s gathering: matzah is flavorless. By design. Matzah is ‘pauper’s bread’ and may not be seasoned, nor is one allowed to add eggs, sugar, or oil to its dough.”
There’s nothing more bland than “Kosher for Passover” matzah. I could understand any foodie who said to him or herself, “Why bother?” Well, if it was just a holiday about food, I’d think it was a waste of time and a torment to my tastebuds.
However, Chabad.org tells us, “Matzah is more than a food, it’s the way we relive the Exodus.”
For any good Jew (or Torah-observant Christian), reliving the Exodus every year during Passover is a spiritual exercise. Just as our muscles need physical exercise, our spirit needs religious exercises and Passover is one of those yearly “spiritual exercises.”
Over the years, Jewish women all over the world have come up with creative recipes using matzah so you can eat the same thing for seven days in a row without feeling like you’re eating the same thing for seven days in a row. Their enterprising spirit has made fulfilling the mitzvah of matzah a little more enjoyable. Matzah Ball Soup is one of those recipes that some creative Jewish woman developed centuries ago to make matzah flavorful and digestible.
The internet is full of basic recipes for Matzah Ball Soup but I tested out my idea first by throwing some kimchi into a batch of Manischewitz Matzo Ball and Soup Mix. If you’re inclined to make the matzah soup from scratch, try Oma’s Fabulous Matzo Ball Soup. (The name of the recipe alone makes it worth adding to your culinary playbox. )
I added 1/2 of chopped sour kimchi and about 1/2 cup of the remaining sour kimchi juice (because that’s all I had left) and let it come to a boil and then simmer with the matzah balls for approximately 20 minutes. As the film developed on the top, I skimmed it off. With the kimchi and kimchi juice in the soup, the soup scum had a strange bright pink or red color but I kept skimming until the broth was mostly clear.
The matzah balls started out the size of small rubber balls but expanded as they cooked in the broth, until they were about the size of small tennis balls.
The results were flavorful but not overwhelmingly spicy. Half a cup of kimchi and 1/2 cup of kimchi juice in over 2 quarts of broth is not going to light your mouth on fire. This is not kimchi jjigae. It’s a mild to medium spice level and could easily be eaten by people who are scared of spicy cuisine. If you can handle the heat, add more kimchi and kimchi juice to kick it up.