The last few days have been wet and windy. But, they’re perfect for soup. Especially Matzo ball soup, with a Miami/Cuban touch. The only difference between the traditional version of this Jewish dish and this Cuban matzo ball soup recipe is the addition of cumin, sofrito, avocado and lime. You can make your own chicken stock but if you want to skip that step, just buy the pre-made and add those four ingredients.
Cuban matzo ball soup is special because Cuba has so much diversity and it represents the fusions of cultures to create amazing dishes (check out my recipe for Pollo a la Barbacoa for a taste of Chinese influence). This history of food and how dishes are created by blending culture is something I find fascinating. In this case, understanding the Jewish community in Cuba helps me to know how the people and the food have evolved.
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Today, Havana has over 1,200 people identifying as Jewish. The first to migrate to the island were the American Jews, who settled after the Cuban Wars for Independence in 1898. In 1910, Sephardic Jews left Ottoman Turkey to Cuba, escaping the Baltic wars. The last wave of immigration were the Eastern Europeans, escaping the Nazis.
During Fidel Castro’s Revolution in 1959, a large number of Jews fled the island. Many of them were business owners and merchants. Castro’s attack on capitalism made it difficult to survive.
The remaining Jewish community in Havana has created their fusion of classic Jewish dishes with Cuban touches, integrating local ingredients. Kosher eating can be difficult since the island is pork heavy and personal fishing boats are outlawed in Cuba. Roast chicken marinated in mojo, plantain kugel, and pureed boniato (Cuban sweet potato) are just a few examples for the Cuban influence on traditional Jewish dishes.
Cuban Matzo Ball Soup Recipe
- Ready in 20 minutes
- Serves 8 people
- 1 2-3 pound chicken, cut into pieces
- 2 yellow onions, unpeeled cut in half
- 4 celery stocks, cut into large pieces
- 2 carrots, cut into large pieces, plus 2 extra, cut into 1/2 pieces
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons sofrito, divided
- 6 sprigs each of cilantro & parsley
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Matzo ball mix
- Place chicken, onions, garlic, celery, peppercorns and carrots in a large pot and cover with 12 cups of water.
- Season with salt and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- While the stock is simmering. Make the Matzo balls. Following the directions according to the package. ( do not throw away soup mix, use it for another time).
- Using tongs remove chicken and let cool on a cutting board. Drain the stock and remove cooked vegetables. (used a calendar and a sieve) Add the drained stock back to the pot.
- Once the chicken has cooled. Pluck meat from the bones and add to the stock. Add uncooked carrots, sofrito,cumin, cilantro and parsley sprigs.
- Add the matzo balls to the stock and simmer for 20 minutes until balls are fully cooked and carrots are tender. Taste to adjust seasonings.
Serve your Cuban matzo ball soup hot and top with more sprigs of cilantro leaves, and avocado.