Friday, March 28, 2014


I've heard people say, "That's Jewish food".  Italian food comes from Italy, German from Germany, Irish from Ireland.  I've never heard anyone say, "That's Catholic food". So, what country comprises Jewish cuisine?  Certainly not Israel, since that is considered to be Mediterranean cuisine.  Jewish cuisine must be mistaken for food that is served in a kosher deli who's origin is mostly that of Ashkenazi Jews, those being Poland, Germany, Russia, and Austria.

With Jews immigrating to the United States, so came the foods that they cooked.  New Yorkers learned to dine in the kosher deli's to seek the delicious specialties. What makes a deli kosher? Aside from the meat being kosher, you would not be able to order anything made with dairy.

Most of the delis no longer exist, although "kosher style" may be the cuisine.  One company has latest for many years and still remains; Ben's Deli.  With various locations, I sought out the one in Bayside and spoke with Hal Simon, the manager.

After sharing his thoughts about working for Ben's we talked about the food.

Cole slaw and pickles are automatically placed at your table.  Do not expect "dill pickles" even though they somehow got representative of Jewish cuisine.  The true pickles are either "sour" or "half sour". 
Chicken fricassee is a dish composed of chicken parts and meatballs cooked in a brown sauce. It is common to use paprika for the coloring.   Beef tongue is a delicacy.  At Ben's it is served with a sweet and sour Polonaise sauce.
Chopped Liver is a staple.  Think of it as a chunky pate made with chicken livers, onions, hard boiled eggs and chicken fat.  Gone are those days as the chicken fat has been 86ed.
Rye bread can be gotten with or without the caraway seeds. 
Stuffed cabbage.
Stuffed derma.  No more is the casing composed of the cows intestines, which no matter where you buy it, has changed the true flavor.  It is stuffed with vegetables, oat meal, and beef fat. 
Gefilte fish...the meatloaf of fish.  Ben's recipe uses white fish and yellow pike.  Other recipes call for the addition of some carp as well.  Must be eaten with the traditional red beet horse radish.  It is served with carrots as the recipe calls for first boiling the fish in water, onions, and carrots. 
What's a Jewish meal without the challah bread?
Ben's has two kinds of knishes.  There is that one company out there that makes the square ones. Ben's has some of that assortment as well as making their own round ones that are bakes.  It is typical to place deli mustard on it. 

Ben's has "overstuffed sandwiches that will certainly hit the hunger spot.  I had one made with corned beef and pastrami. Same brisket of beef is used. Pastrami has spices added. 
If you are not sure as what you want, you should have the "chicken in the pot".  You'll not only have the boiled chicken, but also kreplach (dumplings), matzo balls, noodles, peas and carrots that is actually served in a pot but on a plate. 

Potato pancakes are a given.  Of interest is that we tend to eat french fries with ketchup, potato knishes with mustard, potato pancakes with apple sauce and a baked potato with butter and sour cream.  Nu?
Kasha vanishkas is made with kasha, a buckwheat oat, pasta shapes in bow ties, and onions
Noodle pudding varies with either a sweet made with fruit such as raisins or the ultra caloric, artery clogging one that I make with not only the eggs but pot cheese, and lots of butter. 
Ben's has a variety of dessert that are not made on the premises.  One of the Ben's locations is responsible for baking up the delicious rugalah. 

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