Gondi is a truly delicious and wholly Jewish-Persian dish. It’s a meat-dumpling soup with chickpeas that’s served for Shabbat dinner in Iranian homes across the world.
As with any recipe, there are endless personal variations, but at its heart is a light chicken meatball bound with chickpea flour, fragrant with cumin and turned golden with turmeric, that is easy to cut into. The soup is typically a starter and served along with warm flatbread and sabzi (fresh herbs).
While gondi’s origins aren’t exactly known, it’s generally accepted that it was created by the Jewish community of Tehran a long time ago. The recipe has evolved over time; its current iterations are made with ground chicken or turkey, but in the past may have included veal as well.
If you haven’t tried it, you may have to secure an invitation to Shabbat dinner with a Persian friend or, barring that, should make some in your own kitchen. According to Iranian Jewish food writer (and The Nosher contributor) Tannaz Sassooni, “The dish is made at home because Iranian Jews, both back in Iran, and now in diaspora, always get together at home with their families on the eve of Shabbat.”
Try this simple recipe first, and then consider adding grated and squeezed onion, minced garlic, cardamom or white pepper to the meatballs. To the broth, carrots, celery, onion, ramps, leeks, cilantro or green onion would not be out of place.
Note: The meatballs and broth can be stored separately in the refrigerator for up to four days. You can use store-bought chicken broth instead of making a broth from scratch.
For the broth:
- 6 cups cold water
- 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, skin removed
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp whole cumin seeds
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas, divided
For the chicken dumplings:
- 1½ lb ground dark meat chicken
- ½ cup chickpea flour
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- kosher salt
- thinly sliced carrot, celery or cilantro leaves, toasted cumin seeds, to serve
- In a large pot, combine cold water, chicken, carrots, onion, celery and cumin seeds. Bring to a simmer and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Let it bubble on low heat for at least 45 minutes and up to two hours.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, smash ⅔ cup of the chickpeas with a fork, reserving the rest for the soup. Add the ground chicken, chickpea flour, olive oil, egg, ground cumin and turmeric and salt. Stir completely and let rest while the stock simmers.
- Taste the broth after 45 minutes. Depending on how strongly flavored you’d like it to be, leave it to cook for another hour or strain it out into another pot, bringing it back to a simmer. (Reserve the chicken for serving or refrigerate and make into chicken salad or turn into tacos.)
- Slightly dampen your hands and form the chicken mixture into balls just a bit smaller than a golf ball. You should get about 12. Gently add to the broth, one at a time, making sure they don’t touch.
- Simmer for 45 minutes. When ready, they will float and when cut in to will be cooked through. Cut one in half to check and return to the broth if the dumpling is not completely done.
- Shred the reserved cooked chicken and add to the broth to warm (optional), along with the remaining chickpeas. Taste the broth and add salt as needed.
- To serve, ladle into bowls, garnish with thinly sliced carrot, celery or cilantro leaves, and/or toasted cumin seeds.