Growing up in a Jewish family in Connecticut, it was easy to take the culture and food for granted. Passovers, Hanukkahs, and every holiday in between were celebrated with dozens of family friends and relatives. Jewish delis were all over the place and three bar mitzvahs in a single weekend was light work. When I got to the University of Virginia, me and my Jewish roommate made up roughly 8% of the Jewish population at school. I quickly realized that the thing I missed most in this land of southern gentiles was the food. With the nearest Jewish deli sitting over 100 miles from campus, it has been impossible to satisfy my cravings for a steaming bowl of matzo ball soup.
Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that although some people, like comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, think “we have no cuisine,” I think my peoples’ food is pretty dank if you choose the right dishes. After eating traditional Jewish food my whole life, it holds a special place in my heart and stomach. So, I present to you my personal ranking of the top 5 Jewish foods.
5. Pastrami on Rye
Coming in hot at #5 is pastrami and rye. This sandwich is truly a match made in heaven. It goes together like herpes and unprotected sex. In NYC, you can’t walk more than half a block without the smell of hot pastrami wafting out of one of the city’s endless kosher delis. Everyone knows that Katz’s is the GOAT spot for pastrami on rye. Piled high with enough meat to sedate even the hungriest Jew, it truly is the perfect sandwich, and has become a staple of American cuisine.
4. Jewish Braised Brisket
When most people think of brisket, the first thing that comes to mind is a 350 pound dude with a beard and trucker hat drooling over a 10 foot long smoker somewhere in rural Texas. While this guy undoubtedly cooks up some fire brisket, what most people don’t know is that short mothers with Jewish accents in the suburbs of Connecticut can give him a run for his money. Braised brisket is a classic dish served at Jewish holidays, and a close cousin to its southern barbecue counterpart. Equally tender, served with a healthy dose of onions and carrots, this is one of the tribe’s most underrated dishes. If you’ve never had this style of brisket, here’s a recipe that will be sure to bring all the saftas to the yard.
3. Matzo Ball Soup
Matzo ball soup is truly elite. No other soup has an island of savory chewiness surrounded by a sea of salty broth. It is also the culinary answer to any question. Feeling cold? Matzo ball soup. Hungry? Matzo ball soup. Fiancé just broke up with you? Take a bath in that shit. Are you Kylie Jenner? Fuck yeah, make some Matzo ball soup. If you don't think that ass was 100% crafted by a high-Matzo-ball diet you're high. It is literally the cure to anything, and for that reason, this dish sits at #3 on my list.
It’s as flaky as a Hinge date, and as soft as Kylie's aforementioned dump truck. A truly versatile bread, a warm loaf of challah has no limits. You can cut two slices and make a wicked PB&J, toss it in some egg or onto the griddle for some challah french toast, or just eat it straight like a true Jew. If you really wanna experience Jewish culinary nirvana, rip off a piece and dip it in your matzo ball soup...
1. Bagel and Lox
Bagel. Lox. Red Onion. Capers. Cream cheese. This combination has been fueling the world since before circumcision was even invented. To quote a Torah passage, Moses once said, “I always start my day with a toasted everything bagel and a Sinai-sized pile of lox.” If the main man himself said it, then it must be true. This breakfast food is perhaps the Jewish peoples’ greatest contribution to society. America doesn’t run on Dunkin, it runs on motherfucking circle bread and smoked salmon. Every deli that doesn’t serve this meal should be closed immediately and the owner forced to spend 40 days and 40 nights reevaluating their life decisions. If it isn’t already abundantly clear, I absolutely love bagels and lox. I like to think that in high school, the reason why girls wouldn’t talk to me is because of my #LoveforLox accompanied with constant salmon breath. It definitely wasn’t the acne or spontaneous shvitzing induced by mid-gym class half chubs wheneve... anyway, shoutout to whatever mensch invented the #1 Jewish food on my list. The tribe owes you a great debt of gratitude.
Shalom and look out for my next Kosher inspired lists coming to you soon,
Jared The J ✡🥯