Matzo ball soup
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Matzo Ball Controversy: Fluffy or Hard?

May 5784 be the sweetest year yet for you.

One reason why people travel is to experience something new. People, culture, or food may be three of myriad reasons for what people seek that is different from their usual environments. One type of food that is not quite ubiquitous in the United States is matzo ball soup, which is typically consumed by people of the Jewish faith. However, the ever enduring matzo ball controversy — fluffy or hard — continues.

Matzo Ball Controversy: Fluffy or Hard?

Matzo ball soup is basically traditional chicken soup with matzo balls. Noodles and vegetables can be added to the soup. Matzo balls are generally types of dumplings that are formed by hand from a mixture of matzo meal, beaten eggs, water, a fat or oil of some type, and some sort of seasoning. They can be the size of golf balls or larger — despite the supposed largest matzo ball in the world which weighed 426 pounds, which was definitely larger than a golf ball…

…but should matzo balls be so light and fluffy that they float in the soup — or should they be dense or hard enough that they sink to the bottom of the bowl of soup? People on both sides can be quite adamant and vociferous with their opinions. This controversy has endured for decades — probably centuries — as the origins of matzo balls are from both Eastern Europe and Central Europe.

Round raisin challah
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Rosh Hashanah is a celebration that marks the beginning of the new year in Judaism. The first of the two days of Rosh Hashanah started at sundown last night, Friday, September 15, 2023; and the year 5784 begins. Shofar, so good.

The new year is celebrated for ten days before Yom Kippur — which is the day of atonement and the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar — begins on the evening of

Even if you are not Jewish, you can still participate in this solemn holiday for the new year. Partake in a round raisin challah, which symbolizes goodness without an end and the wish for a sweet and prosperous new year. Cleanse your body by fasting for 25 consecutive hours on Yom Kippur as you reflect upon the past year.

Final Boarding Call

Matzo ball soup
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

A side argument to this fun controversy is how to spell matzo in English. Is the correct spelling matzo, matzoh, matzah, mazzah, or matza? The Hebrew spelling does not help much: מַצָּה

The last letter on the left is a He — ה — which is usually pronounced with the H sound…

…but when it is the last letter of a word, it is typically silent; so I suppose the spellings in English with the silent H at the end are closer to correct. Also, the pronunciation of the last vowel — known as Kamatz — can sound like ah, aw, or a long o. Who cares, however, if the matzo ball soup is delicious?

If you speak Yiddish, the term for matzo balls is usually knaidlach — although many different variations of spellings in both the singular and plural exist. Which one is correct? Who knows? Who cares?!?

As for me: I prefer matzo balls which are hard enough to bend a spoon when attempting to cut into it; or give someone a concussion if one is thrown at the head of that person — just like the way my late mother made them.

Travel is a great way to participate in new or different experiences — but you do not always need to venture far away. If the weather is conducive and you are in the area, take a walk on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn on Monday, September 25, 2023 to see how Jewish people commemorate Yom Kippur. You might even be able to witness a service in one of the synagogues along the way.

May 5784 be the sweetest year yet for you.

שנה טובה — or L’Shana Tova!

All photographs ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Matzo ball soup at Rosh Hashana? Maybe on Shabbat.
    Definitely floaters are better; use seltzer water when mixing.

    Hard matzo balls are great for slicing and frying; serve with sides for savory or sweet.

    No mention of kugel?

    1. What kind of kugel, Chris@ Oak? Noodle, potato, or some other kind?

      Nothing wrong with having matzo ball soup on Rosh Hashanah, in my opinion. Unlike Passover, at least it can have real noodles.

      I just enjoy it; but I honestly never thought about slicing and frying a hard matzo ball. Interesting…

      1. Noodle (lokshen) with golden raisins.

        For frying sliced matzo balls, make sure they are well drained and refrigerate overnight. Slice about 1/2”.

  2. Both have their qualities. Other than my mother’s knaidlach and my wife’s, the best were the ones you could get at the former cafe Max’s in Silver Spring, which sadly is no longer in existence. I think though that they still sell them at the supermarket that they still own.

    I never heard them called Matzo balls until I came to America, by the way! In England, my late parents (both third generation Brits) called them knaidlach and that’s what I will always call them!

    1. My grandfather always called them knaidlach as well, Barry Graham

      …and I always found that word substantially more appetizing than matzo balls…

  3. I forgot about the amazing mundlen (soup nuts) that my father’s mother used to make. Sadly nobody has ever been able to replicate the recipe even though I have it written down. One of my daughters tried once. It wasn’t the same!

    1. That is because your grandmother made them with love, Barry Graham

      …and only her unique kind of love. The love from your daughter would be a different kind of love.

      When a recipe is handed down over the generations, it always changes — even ever so slightly — because someone adds their own unique personality and touch to it. Whether the recipe is better or worse, it will always be at least a little bit different…

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