The Chicken Soup That Keeps on Giving

A portrait from Brooklyn and Israel

Chicken soup/broth is often made from bones and scraps, but in tweaking a family recipe, two families birthed a tradition that brings abundance.


Reverse Chicken Soup

full table of home-cooked food including chicken soup and the resulting pulled chicken
liora’s chicken soup

Liora’s Chicken Soup is known in our home to have magical healing powers. We first had it when I was recovering from a crazy illness in March 2018, and Liora hand-delivered some when I came home from the hospital. She also sent some across the street to us when my daughter had a bad flu and she was asking for Liora’s soup.

Chicken soup is known for being something made from nothing; chicken bones and leftover vegetables turned into a wholesome broth. But after a fateful vacation together at a picturesque Pennsylvania lake house we turned that on its head and a new tradition was born.

chicken and vegetable castaways from chicken soup

One of the days we were there, Liora let her magical soup simmer while we had fun on the lake. Unable to find chicken bones at our remote location, we used chicken drumsticks. I asked her what she does with the vegetables (and boiled chicken, when she doesn’t have bones) afterwards. She told that she would often keep them in the fridge intending to use them, but would often forget about them, and there was always a bit of guilt when she’d end up tossing them.

As I imagined Liora’s grandma rolling in her grave, I pondered what we could do with the vegetables, and realized that several of the veggies there in the pot are common with our pav bhaji recipe; all we really needed was cauliflower, tomatoes and masala and we would be on our way to turning the veggies into another wholesome (and spicy!) family favorite.

turning chicken soup chicken into indian-spiced pulled chicken

Thankfully I had pav bhaji masala with me, because the kids and I were in the middle of a several week long road trip to a few spots in Pennsylvania and New York so I had packed certain key spices. [Jan 2024 note: no, we don’t always travel with pav bhaji masala, but we had just come from my friend Rachel’s in Pennsylvania where I had promised to make some.]

And just like that, a new tradition was born. Each time we make Liora’s chicken soup from her grandmother’s recipe, we turn the vegetables into multiple meals worth of pav bhaji (along with buttery, toasted brioche buns), and turn the chicken drumsticks into an Indian-spiced pulled chicken (with flaky, delicious parathas).

deconstructed and reincarnated chicken soup castaways

Reminiscent of the hanukah story of the oil lasting for the lamp for more nights than anticipated… this chicken soup just keeps on going.


Andy Statman – Jay Gandhi Connection

andy statman -jay gandhi connection live at jalopy theater july 2021
jalopy july 2021, with my son

Just like the tradition and meals captured in this portrait, The Andy Statman – Jay Gandhi Connection was also born of collaborations here in Brooklyn: a musical collaboration between legendary Andy Statman and incredible Jay Gandhi, Ehren Hanson and David Ellenbogen.

Their music draws out the magic at the crossroads of Indian classical, Jewish, and American roots music, not unlike the new tradition captured here does, so it’s a perfect pairing. I would also venture to say that both are equally soul-nourishing, so press play right away!

May we suggest the playlist as the chicken soup cooks, and the YouTube set when it’s time to make the pav bhaji and pulled chicken? The video would also make a nice post-dinner, virtual show.

Thanks to the Jalopy Theater for capturing and sharing the below video recording of their July 2021 live show (I was there!), and so many other awesome shows.

Avid fans (do we have any of those yet?) might recognize Jay Gandhi elsewhere in Cultures Capsules history. We have been fans of him even before The Court Series / Cultures Capsules collaborations. And you might also remember that we cooked up a storm for the aforementioned 2020 streamed Ragas Live Festival, when the pandemic forced it online (including recipes submitted by performers Toko Telo from Madagascar, and Abhik Mukherjee, originally from India). And in a final connecting of the dots: Liora was one of the lucky friends to try some of these dishes that we hand delivered on the musical breaks!

If you’re in Brooklyn, you can catch them live at Jalopy and catch Andy and his Trio at Barbès.


Liora’s Chicken Soup

It all starts with the chicken soup, with it’s magical healing qualities (according to my daughter). Once you have the soup to enjoy, the “leftovers” from this version of Liora’s family recipe are turned into two additional dishes: Pav Bhaji and Indian-spiced Pulled Chicken.

homemade chicken soup and indian-spiced pulled chicken

Liora’s family (and mine!) love this soup with shkedei marak (“soup almonds” aka Israeli croutons) if you can find them. They can be hard to find, so Liora’s grandfather’s matzo balls are a great addition, or just make fresh challah (Liora’s recipe here).


Pau Bhaji From Soup Castaways

Of course this recipe would would no longer be vegetarian like traditional pav bhaji, but if you are making chicken soup, that is probably not a problem.

pau pav bhaji with toasted rolls, and garnished with butter, red onions and cilantro, on a traditional indian metal plate
chicken soup veggies all mashed and ready to go into the pav bhaji base!


Indian-spiced Pulled Chicken

indian-spiced pulled chicken made from chicken soup leftovers

add link to challah, too.

indian-spiced pulled chicken made from spoils of chicken soup


Liora’s Grandfather’s Matzo Balls

Here’s a bonus, as another option to enjoy with your soup! Commonly associated with Jewish holidays, Matzo balls are actually enjoyed in soup all year long.

liora's grandfather's matzo balls for chicken soup

When Liora wants to make matzo balls to enjoy in her soup, she opts for her grandfather’s recipe because he added more matzo meal, resulting in a heartier orb.

I like my grandfather’s version of a bit harder ones so I add more matzo than my grandmother would have.