Matzo balls, in all of their carby, savory, pleasant blandness, are an ideal blank canvas for cooking across a variety of cuisines. Take just about any soup, remove the dumpling or noodle component if necessary, and add in a matzo ball. From hot and sour soup, to ramen, to beef stew, it seems to always work out nicely. This recipe removes the pork from the classic Chinese soup and rounds out the spiciness and sourness with the savory matzo ball.
Serves about 6
Time: About 2 hours and 15 minutes
Active Work: About 30 minutes
¾ cup matzo meal
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons LaCroix or seltzer
¼ cup canola oil
About 1 oz. dried mushrooms - Wood ear, Cloud Ear, or Shiitake.
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cloves minced garlic
4 scallions, thinly sliced
½ inch piece of ginger, grated or minced
1 quart vegetable broth
½ cup bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
¼ cup Chinese black vinegar (you can substitute 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
A few dashes freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg, beaten
2 scallions, chile oil, extra soy sauce to taste.
In a small bowl, gently beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are blended. In a separate bowl, use a fork to mix the matzo meal and salt, then add the LaCroix or seltzer, followed by the oil and eggs. Stir until no dry spots remain and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Place the mushrooms in a bowl, cover with boiling water and let sit for 20 minutes. Check to see if they’re softened. If not, give them another 10 minutes and check again. Once softened, drain, rinse, and coarsely chop them.
Put a large pot on medium heat and add the oil - just enough to lightly coat the bottom. Add the garlic, half of the scallions, and ginger, stirring constantly. Cook until fragrant - about 1 minute, then immediately add the broth, plus two cups of water. Add the bamboo shoots, vinegar, soy sauce, mushrooms, black pepper, sugar, and sesame oil to the pot and bring it to a simmer.
Fill a separate, large pot with a lid about three-quarters of the way to the top and put it over high heat. Use a spoon and your hands to scoop and shape the matzo balls. Precision isn’t extremely important, great matzo balls can be cooked in many different sizes, but be mindful of the fact that they will about double in size as they simmer. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and begin adding the matzo balls. Do not overcrowd them. Use an extra pot or make them in batches if necessary. Cover the pot and simmer them until they begin to sink- about 40 minutes to 1 hour.
While the soup simmers, remove ¼ cup of the broth and stir in the cornstarch. Return this mixture to the soup by slowly pouring it in and stirring as you go. This will help to thicken the soup.
When the matzo balls are ready, remove them from the broth and set on a plate.
Just prior to serving, crack the egg into a small bowl, break the yolk and whisk the mixture. Next, whisk the soup in a circular motion to get a whirlpool going. Pour in the egg slowly. It will cook rapidly.
To serve, add the cooked matzo balls and portion the soup into bowls. Top with the reserved scallions, chile oil, and soy sauce.