Save the Deli

Chicken Soup Reinvented

I just came across a great article in the Times from my friend Jennifer 8 Lee, author of the amazing book and blog, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (like Save the Deli for Chinese food).

Chicken Soup for Good Souls, Jewish or Otherwise

Published: March 12, 2009

Do the Jews have a claim on chicken soup?

A mock court once thought so, ruling that chicken soup deserved the title of “Jewish penicillin.” (The opposing side argued that the soup belonged to everyone, and that Greeks, Italians and Chinese could all claim to use chicken soup in time of illness.)

And chicken soup may actually indeed be good for a cold (not just the soul). A 2000 study found that a chicken soup recipe passed down from a Lithuanian grandmother inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection, which may reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.

So while many a chicken soup recipe has been passed down from Jewish grandmothers, some felt it was time for the soup to be updated — time to move past garlic, noodles, carrots and matzo balls. The organizers of a national chicken soup contest urged contestants to think progressively in the “Better Than Your Bubby’s” soup competition.

The article goes on to talk about the competition, the different recipes, and interpretations of chicken soup.


So with Passover less than a week away, and many of us and our mothers and grandmothers cracking out the old recipe cards, maybe it’s time to rethink the old chicken soup. Does your family make it differently? Do you have ideas on how to improve upon it? Spice it up while keeping it faithful? Or maybe delving into the cuisine of a lesser-known Jewish community?

I’d love to know. Please post any recipes, traditional or not, in the comments below.

5 Responses to “Chicken Soup Reinvented”

  1. Jan Lewis Says:

    My bubbe always insisted on a kosher chicken. Which makes sense, as they are already brined. She would also add a handful of fresh dill and parsnips.

  2. Plays With Food Says:

    I’m sorry – I cannot bring myself to part from tradition; though my mother’s tradition is enhanced by two latter-day sources: Director Juzo Itami’s brilliant Soup de Farce, Tampopo, and the late, great, Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Cookbook. So – to the traditional PULLET (not old stewing hen, not “Ovenstuffer roaster”), good water, and soup greens, I add chicken feet and/or extra bones and organs (learned about the feet from Ms. Tropp and OMG do they add collagen). And in a nod to both inspirations- NO boiling, please, just a gentle simmer. And if you’ve used feet – it will take many hours this way, but it is well worth it!

  3. Mark Says:

    My wife is a purist when it comes to her chicken soup. She’ll use cut-up whole chicken, onions, carrots & celery, salt and pepper…..THAT’S IT! Simmer gently for 2 hours, strain adding the carrots back in, refrigeratore over night, and remove the fat on top the next day. It needs to taste like chicken and be clear; and this years was no different, absolutely delicious with a large matzah ball (floater) and a few soup nuts!

  4. rachaelraycookwareset Says:

    Hey really wonderful blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Remarkable .. I’ll bookmark your blog and have the rss feeds also…

  5. ari-free Says:

    It’s got to have dill, otherwise it is generic chicken soup. And please, no cilantro, zucchini or eggplant!

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