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  • Writer's pictureFarideh Goldin

Gondi_Iranian Jewish Food

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

By Nahid Gerstein:


One Friday night, many years ago, I invited my father-in-law for dinner. I made him a distinctly Shirazi Jewish food called Abgusht Choghondar, which has cubes of beef, kidney beans, and a lot of beets plus the beet leaves. When I served him dinner, my father-in-law, whose parents were from Kiev in today’s Ukraine, said: "Oh, you've made Borscht!"

When I made "Gondi", another Shirazi Jewish food, my Iraqi friends told me that the "kube" was good, but where was the meat inside it? My father-in-law said that I had made good matzah balls just like his wife used to make!

To me, though, Gondi brings back memories of my home in Shiraz and my mother's fabulous cooking. When I make this dish, I have my mother in mind. I seek to create the flavors of her Gondi, first made over a coal-burning stove in Shiraz and later in Holon, Israel.

When the smell of the the bubbling balls of Gondi fills my own kitchen, I remember Friday nights of my childhood in Shiraz. I smell the Jewish holidays, but, above all, I see my mother laboring in the kitchen to create this and many other scrumptious dishes for us.


*1 medium onion, grated fine or made into paste

*1 pound ground turkey, chicken or beef

*1 cup roasted chickpea(coarse) flour

* pepper, salt, cumin, cardamon, to taste

* clear chicken soup

* 1 cup whole chickpeas (optional)

In a large bowl, mix ground turkey, onion paste, chickpea powder and spices. The mix must be loose, if hard, add a little water. Make a small ball and cook for about 10 minutes, and then taste it for flavor. Add more spices to the mixture if needed.

Wet your hands, and roll about two tablespoons of the mixture into a ball, and drop it into the boiling chicken soup. Repeat until the mixture is finished. Make sure the soup is simmering during this process. If not, wait until it comes to boil again before adding more balls. Simmer for about 30 minutes. You can also add whole cooked chickpeas to the soup.

Many families like to combine the mix with cooked rice. Gondi with rice, Gondi Berengi, is also delicious and has a different flavor.

By Farideh Goldin:

About the video:

I made this video as an assignment for a video storytelling class at Georgetown University, School of Journalism. I told my uncle Shemuel, who was coming from Israel for a visit, that I needed his help. He is known in the family for his delicious Gondi.

I asked other members of family who had arrived for my daughter's wedding that I needed quiet. That was not to be! Everyone, my mother, my sister and my daughter gathered around us, adding their own commentaries---in three languages, Farsi, Hebrew, and English---switching back and forth between languages. Others chatted in the background as if the video setup was just a show!

It was soon clear to me that this video wouldn't be appropriate for an assignment. However, I kept recording the sometimes very funny interactions between these family members. At one point, my mother switched to English to say "oil", but her accent was thick and the rest didn't understand that she was trying to say that oil had to be added to the mixture since the meat didn't have any fat.

The video is long, but it shows the very unusual situation of many Iranian Jews, living outside their country of birth.

We left Iran at different times and for different destinations. My uncle moved to Israel when he was twelve years old, when anti-semitism in his neighborhood became unbearable. He later moved to New York City and then again to Israel.

I moved to Virginia before the Revolution to continue my education. My Hebrew is poor sin eI never lived in Israel.

The rest of the family moved to Israel after the Iranian Revolution. My parents tried to move to the United States, but life was not easy for them here. They returned to Israel.

My youngest sister was just three-years-old when our parents moved to Israel. She came to America with them and returned to Israel as well. Her most comfortable language is Hebrew. She speaks both Farsi and English with a Hebrew accent.

My husband is an Ashkenazi Jew, born in Virginia, but he studied in Israel for a while and is fluent in Hebrew.

Thus, we speak each of these three languages with different levels of fluency and spice them with our different accents.

This is a picture of Gondi I made for Rosh Hashanah this year. I don't add cardamon, but I sometimes add whole cumin seeds. I add one or two zucchini to flavor the liquid. They are often completely disintegrated by the time the Gondi is done. I love turnips, rutabaga (not an Iranian vegetable), and yellow beets (cooked separately) with mine. You may add a can of chickpeas to the pot as well.

A trick to enjoying Gondi:

Cut one to two Gondi balls, stuff the pieces in a warm pita pocket along with various herbs, like cilantro, green onions and parsley, Since I was born in Shiraz. and most Shirazis love their food a bit sour, I squeeze lime juice on my Gondi before eating it. My husband and my daughters do the same. The ritual does matter!

Nooshe-joon! Enjoy!

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