Israeli cuisine is a combination of foods popular throughout the Middle East region, like falafel, ful medames, baklava, hummus, or baba ganouj, and of foods brought to Israel by Jewish populations from around the world as part of the Zionist movement, like kugel, gefilte fish, latkes, or gondi (recipe follows), a chicken soup with garbanzo bean and chicken meat dumplings brought to Israel originally by Persian Jews.
Israel quick facts:
- Capital: Jerusalem
- Population: 8,146,300 (2014 estimate)
- Notable Israelis: David Ben-Gurion, Natalie Portman, Gene Simmons, Yossi Benayoun
Gondi arrived in Israel, like the Persian Jews themselves, in two major waves. The first came in the early 1950s, shortly after the modern Israeli nation was created, and the second came in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in the late 1970s. Jews remain in Iran today, where they are an officially recognized minority religious group and have a designated seat in the Iranian parliament, but much, much greater numbers of Persian Jews today reside in Israel than in any other nation.
The name gondi describes a meatball or dumpling (let’s agree to call them “meatlings”) made of ground meat (chicken, veal, or lamb usually) mixed with garbanzo bean flour. It is most frequently served in a chicken soup (as we outline below), but can also be found on its own as a side dish or appetizer.
SERVES 4 TO 6
For the soup base:
- 1 5-pound whole fryer chicken, giblets removed
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 medium yellow onions, cut into quarters
- 1 Tbs peppercorns
- 1 Tbs salt
- 1 Tbs turmeric powder
- Stems cut from one bunch of parsley
For the gondi:
- 1 lb ground dark meat chicken
- 2 onions, minced
- a handful of parsley leaves, minced
- 1 Tbs ground cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups garbanzo bean flour
For the soup:
- 2 zucchini, sliced thickly
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced thickly
First, we combined all the ingredients for our broth in a large stockpot (one large enough to contain our chicken) and covered with water:
The pot was brought to a boil over medium-high heat, then the heat was reduced to medium-low and the chicken was simmered, covered, for an hour-and-a-half:
Once the chicken was cooked through (but not overcooked; even though it’s underwater, a chicken can still dry out if cooked too long or at too high a temperature), it was fished out of the broth and set aside:
The broth was strained (the vegetables and peppercorns were discarded) and returned to the stockpot:
The heat was left at medium-low to keep the broth at a simmer while we worked on the gondi “meatlings.”
Making gondi was simple. First, all the ingredients were dumped into a large bowl:
…and stirred to combine:
At this point the gondi dough was very wet and closer to a thick batter in consistency, but still workable into little meatballs. Using bare, wet hands to avoid sticking, the dough was rolled into inch-and-a-half or so “meatlings:”
As each gondi was rolled into shape it was dropped into the simmering broth until we had used all the mixture and had about fifteen “meatlings” dancing around in our chicken broth:
Next we added the sliced zucchini and carrots:
…and simmered the soup for an hour. The gondi at this point were very soft and tender, but still just barely holding their shape (if we had it to do again we might consider a shorter cooking time of around half an hour). Served, we beheld our delicious-looking and -smelling soup:
The garbanzo bean flour and cumin gave the gondi an unmistakeable hummus-like flavor, and the broth was rich and deeply chicken-flavored. The turmeric, used both in the broth and the “meatlings” themselves, accentuated and exaggerated the natural yellow color of the chicken broth to great visual effect.
Chicken soups are comfort foods in many cultures, and for the Persian Jews of Israel it is no different. Gondi takes time but is not difficult to make and the results are well worth the endeavor.