(credit: Ezume Images/shutterstock)

(credit: Ezume Images/shutterstock)

Allan Ratman is a third generation baker. He is also one of the owners of famed Katella Deli in Los Alamitos. Being of Jewish descent and with over 40 years of experience in preparing kosher foods, the affable Allan is one of the best for offering some unique Jewish recipes. A true OC expert, Allan was kind enough to take some time out of his busy day in order to share his thoughts on preparing one of the oldest and most traditional kosher dishes.

(credit: Charles Smith Jr.)

(credit: Charles Smith Jr.)

Interviewee: Allan Ratman
Katella Deli
4470 Katella Ave
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
(562) 594-8611

Allan was quick to point out why matzo ball soup is such a prominent Jewish dish during passover, those of Jewish descent do not consume any flour. Thus, the primary ingredient in matzo is matzo meal, not flour. As a added natural benefit, matzo meal is very low in gluten. The finished product is, essentially, a Jewish dumpling. When made properly, The soup served at Katella Deli is quite palate-pleasing.

The Proper Ingredients Must be Mixed with Plenty of TLC
Although not willing to necessarily divulge the specific secrets of the delectable Matzo balls of Katella Deli, Mr. Ratman did note that the ingredients are quite simple: eggs, vegetable oil, kosher salt, pepper, spices (ginger is a popular main spice) and matzo meal. The mixture is then formed into a ball and boiled. When blended together in the right portions and cooked just right, the results are terrific.

Avoiding The “Cannonball”
According to Mr. Ratman, one of the main problems when one attempts homemade matzo balls is that the finished product is neither light nor fluffy. In fact, Allan likened the finished product to a cannonball. With products which contain gluten, overworking the mixture is a leading cause of a tough or very dense finished product. Since matzo balls are virtually gluten-free, the aspect of over-mixing is really not a worry, though there are other concerns.

When asked about the perfect texture of the delicious matzo balls at Katella Deli, Allan responded, “It’s the years and years of experience. We’ve been doing this for over 40 years; we’ve played with the formula. You’ve got to be willing to work with your recipe and balance it — Keep on exploring and exploring.” Indeed, this is a microcosm of the difference between a cook and a chef. The relative size of the matzo ball, combined with the amount of time in the boiling water, will affect the finished product. With that in mind, be sure to work with a consistent size.

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The finished matzo ball is traditionally served hot, in a soup bowl with chicken broth. The matzo ball itself should be made just big enough to sit as a nice stand-alone presentation in the middle of the bowl. It is also often served with a chicken noodle soup. Katella Deli serves it both ways and both are equally delicious, it just depends on the taste of the individual.

The Bottom Line
Making good matzo balls is an art. It may take a few tries, but it is a skill very much worth acquiring. Being able to offer up a good kosher meal makes one a unique chef. Just remember to be patient, as cooking is an art form. The ingredients are relatively inexpensive and there are many recipes readily available online. There is no reason not to make this the year you make a foray into matzo ball soup.

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Born in Los Angeles, CA – Charles Smith Jr loves southern California, sports, food and life. Mr. Smith is a straight shooter who always ‘keeps it real.’ A passionate writer, his main goal is to create understanding and make a difference. He readily welcomes all feedback.