Matzo ball soup is a soup which is made with chicken stock and matzo balls, a type of dumpling. This soup is native to Eastern European Jewish communities, although it has become popular in other regions of the world as well. It is simple and very filling; some people think of matzo ball soup as the quintessential Jewish comfort food as a result. It can easily be made at home, and many Jewish delis stock it, especially during Passover, when matzo ball soup is a common item on the table.
The most basic matzo ball soup is just chicken soup and matzo balls, although some cooks add vegetables, shredded chicken, and other ingredients for more texture and flavor. Ideally, the chicken stock should be home-made, both because it will be of higher quality and because the cook can ensure that the stock is kosher.
The first step in making matzo ball soup is making the matzo balls. Matzo balls are made by mixing fat, matzo meal, water, and spices to taste, to form a dense, sticky dough. Generally, the proportions are around one half cup matzo meal to every two eggs and two tablespoons of fat. Chicken fat is the classic choice, although other fats and oils could certainly be used. Ingredients like salt, pepper, dried onions, and so forth can be added as desired.
While the dough for the matzo balls is being assembled, the stock is heated so that it will be boiling when the dough is ready. Cooks hand-form balls in wet hands and then drop them into the boiling stock to cook; the matzo balls will quickly expand into dense dumplings. The soup is traditionally served hot, ladled out of the soup pot and into a serving bowl.
Since matzo balls can be tricky to make because the dough is so sticky, some cooks like to make a big batch of matzo balls, cook them in boiling water, and then freeze them. The frozen balls can be dropped into stock to heat up as needed. For people who do not want to make their matzo balls at home, a Jewish deli may be able to supply them.
The ingredients in basic matzo ball soup happen to meet the dietary requirements of Passover, making this food a popular choice for this Jewish holiday. However, it is also served year round; some people jokingly call it the “Jewish penicillin,” in a reference to the fact that it is often offered to people who are feeling under the weather.