Is there a fragrance more enticing than that of a home-brewed chicken soup? Everyone I know attests that their own mothers and grandmothers make the best chicken soup (top prize in my case goes to my mum-in-law). I grew up having lots of chicken soup, although much of it was the sort that goes into, and with, a dish called Hainanese chicken rice  – a big hit with my family from our days in Southeast Asia.

This year, I was looking forward to hosting our first Seder in the US. But it wasn’t to be. Instead, we were extremely fortunate to have been invited to not one Seder but two, which were just amazing. As a result, I was a bit late with the Passover soup making but here’s my version, with added Asian zip in the form of ginger, turmeric, fennel and coriander (cilantro) leaves. A matzo ball recipe follows further below, along with a long-delayed simplified recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice, perfect for those following a Sephardi Passover meal plan.

Next year, friends, at my house!

  • chicken, 1 boiling fowl
  • onion, 1 large
  • celery, 2 sticks, halved
  • leek, 1, halved
  • carrots, 3 large, halved
  • turnip, 1 large, quartered
  • ginger, an inch of, skinned and sliced into rounds
  • garlic, 3 cloves, kept whole
  • turmeric, 1/4 tsp
  • optional: tomato, 1, halved
  • optional: fennel seeds, 1 tsp
  • salt, 1 tbsp
  • potatoes, 2 small, kept whole
  • pepper, to taste
  • parsley, coriander/cilantro – a few bunches each, tied together
  1. Place the chicken in a large stockpot, add all the ingredients, fill the pot with water till just covering the chicken and boil
  2. As it simmers, scum will surface to the top. Skim this off and discard
  3. After about 45 minutes, if the chicken is cooked, you may want to remove it and slice off the flesh. Keep the meat aside in a little bit of broth for moisture
  4. Return the bones and carcass to the stockpot
  5. Allow to simmer gently for a total of 2 1/2 to 3 hours, skimming off fat and foam as they surface and adding more hot water if needed
  6. When done, sieve the soup, discarding all bone, solid bits and what’s left of the veg and herbs
  7. Return now-clearish soup to the pan and if you have  a large amount, halve it before adding matzo balls and freshly chopped carrots, and simmer 10 mins
  8. Refrigerate the other half, skimming the fat (or schmaltz) off the top the next day. Schmaltz freezes easily, in case you’d like to keep it for the next dumpling-making occasion – they add flavor and help make matzo balls more tender

Now, here’s a recipe for Matzo balls by George Erdosh, a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Why is this recipe so special? Because he’s a man after my own heart and has added such ingredients as ginger, herbs, pepper, garlic and butter/schmaltz to the traditional egg-matzo meal-oil matzo balls! I don’t doubt that they’re delicious 😉

Matzo Balls

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 3 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup matzo meal
  • 2 Tbsp soft butter, oil or chicken fat
  1. Scramble eggs, blend in salt, ginger, parsley, pepper and garlic. Slowly mix matzo meal and butter (or oil or fat) into egg mixture until it forms a dough. This will be a stiff dough, to lighten it add water slowly until it is workable
  2. Shape dough into neat, round 14 to 18 walnut-sized balls, lower them into simmering stock (made with bouillon, just to cook them), cover pot and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Drain stock.

Hainanese Chicken Rice During Passover Week? Sure! For Sephardis or the Selectively Sephardic 😉

Finally, Hainanese chicken rice, made easy! I cooked the rice in my rice cooker. Instead of water, it was brewed in the chicken soup, along with a pounded 3 cloves garlic and 1/2 inch of ginger and a dollop of sesame seed oil. Season as needed.

The chicken is the same meat that was removed from the above soup. Traditionally, the meat is served cold (trust me, it’s delicious) but I served it warm, drizzled with a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil, and topped with cilantro.

Non-Traditional Chilli Sauce for Hainanese Chicken Rice

On the side, instead of my traditional-style Hainanese chicken rice red chilli sauce (I was clean out of red chillis), I made one with about 5 long, green chillis, 3 cloves garlic, some ginger, a handful of peanuts, 3 tbsp of balsamic (or rice) vinegar, 1/2 tsp brown sugar and 1/2 tsp salt, soy sauce to taste, as well as a big handful of cilantro. These were whizzed in my little food processor and, although I do say so myself, the sauce was divine with the chicken. Be forewarned, it’s hot, too! Those bashful of heat may use 2 chillis and two handfuls of cilantro instead.