Against the Rock-Hard Matzoh Ball

Matzoh ball soup at Mezze.
Matzoh ball soup at Mezze.

It's almost impossible to find a decent matzoh ball at a restaurant in Los Angeles. Even at the finest delis, the standard matzoh ball is as large as a softball and nearly as hard. Perhaps this could be justified by some complex sociocultural explanation about the dissipation of diaspora cuisine. We suspect it's as simple as this: Someone's grandma was a terrible cook. Really awful.

The matzoh ball, when done properly, is a delicate thing. It's small, about the size of a golf ball. It's soft. It submits to the gentle pressure of a soup spoon. It doesn't need to be shattered with a chisel or sliced with a knife. It isn't, like a massively hyped Michael Heizer installation, meant to be a boulder of matzoh meal plunked into your bowl of chicken broth.

Those of us who were raised on delicious, fluffy matzoh balls know the truth. Without condescension, we pity those of you who think these rock-hard balls are authentic representations of Jewish cuisine. That would be like eating the orange chicken at P.F. Chang's then claiming you'd had real Chinese food.

Fortunately, our mom can't make matzoh balls for everyone in the world, there are a few restaurants where you can eat a good matzoh ball. At The Gorbals, Ilan Hall makes the kind of small, fluffy matzoh balls we adore (he once told us the trick was to use seltzer water), though there's the whole shtick of wrapping them in bacon. Not just traif, but wholly unnecessary. More recently, we've fallen in love with Micah Wexler's Jew-y Sunday at Mezze, where he makes killer pastrami, nouveau knishes and chicken soup anchored around a baseball-sized matzoh ball that is, somehow, impossibly fluffy. It tastes perfect. Soft, warm and soothing, this is Jewish comfort food at its finest.

The author's homemade matz-pho ball soup.
The author's homemade matz-pho ball soup.

Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at eshatkin@laweekly.com.

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