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After two cookbooks and multiple restaurants, you might think that Einat Admony would be sick of cooking. But nothing could be further from the truth. “I get very excited. New cooks that don’t know me are like whoa,” Admony says. “I’m still cooking a lot; hopefully it will stay that way.”
Admony has a passion for flavor, and it comes through loud and clear in her cooking. She describes many of her favorite foods as “obsessions,” and she clearly enjoys playing mad scientist in the kitchen. This love of experimentation led to her Yemenite soup dumplings, a menu item at her NYC fine dining restaurant, Balaboosta. The dish is where Yemeni soup and Chinese soup dumplings meet, filled with beef and broth and served with hilbeh, a condiment made using fenugreek leaves.
How did you come up with the Yemenite soup dumplings?
[Yemeni soup] is a traditional soup we would eat on Friday night or Shabbat morning (Saturday morning) or lunch growing up. The soup is a main dish for us. All Yemeni soup has hawaij, a Yemeni spice blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, and cardamom. That’s the main flavor of that soup and what makes it really nice. I’m obsessed with soup dumplings, so it’s two of my favorite dishes combined into one.
I tried to get these soup dumplings in the restaurant for two years. It’s very tricky, not easy. Chinese soup dumplings are made using bones to make the gelatin, and then they mix the gelatin with the meat and scallion and other ingredients so the soup breaks down as it steams. I make a soup and reduce it for four or five hours until it's earthy and beautiful and delicious. Then we add a lot of gelatin and let it sit.
We have a woman who comes in every Thursday and makes hundreds of dumplings. Then we freeze them and we steam them just before serving. There are a few dishes that I’ve wanted to put in my restaurants, and this is one.
What are the other dishes on your list?
The second one I wanted was a vegan dish with mole. I’m also obsessed with mole. So we make manchamanteles mole and mix it with harissa, it’s basically Middle Eastern mole. We take maitake and oyster and enoki mushrooms and marinate and grill them and fry some so there’s some crunch. We have a beautiful mole with two skewers of mushrooms with some pickled onion on top. It’s a beautiful wintry dish.
The last one that I’m working on is to combine [crispy] tuna nigiri—you know the crispy rice with spicy tuna—with a Tunisian sandwich that’s usually a fried bread that’s just a little sweet with spicy harissa, preserved lemon, tuna from a can, olives, sliced potato, cilantro, picked carrots—there’s a lot of stuff. It’s so delicious and very spicy but balanced with the bread. So I did fresh tuna on top of the rice and made a purée with preserved lemon with a little sugar and turmeric and made thin, thin crisps to put on top.
What’s your process for developing new recipes?
I’m a very impulsive person. Usually, I will go by myself to the restaurant and try things. Then I have R&D days with my chefs, and we sit together and work out ideas. For me, I need an explosion of flavors so that’s the first thing I work on. The presentation will come after. Then I will write a recipe, but I’m very bad at writing recipes. I’m pretty organized and neat, but recipes are too technical. I’m also a home cook and I don’t cook like that.
What do you like to cook at home?
I cook a lot of different things. It depends on the day of the week. I do Shabbat dinners every Friday, and my Shabbat dinners look really different from a weekday. It’s going to be the challah, the fish—spicy Moroccan fish—one or two meats like lamb or chicken, and Persian rice. Sometimes it’s a couscous meal with Moroccan dishes and a lot of salad. There’s many courses, a lot of different foods, tons of sides. There’s never going to be clams or shrimp for Shabbat, but I will make that during the week. I grew up with very religious parents, so for Shabbat dinner I respect that tradition. During the week I cook a lot of Asian food, a lot of different things.
Are your kids picky eaters?
They’re good eaters. I wrote in my first book how I help get them to eat stuff. Kids are very picky visually and with texture. If it looks too weird or creamy or chunky, it turns them off. Since they were babies, I never forced [my kids] to finish their plate, but I will force them to try foods. They take a bite and they don’t like it, they don’t eat it. But I want them to try it, because so many times they say no, and then they take a bite and I can see their face change. And slowly there is another bite after a few minutes and another bite.
- Favorite snack food? Bamba (by the way, my dog’s name is Bamba)
- Coffee order? Espresso or drip coffee with a little milk
- Top kitchen tools? Japanese knife, spurtle
- Dinner party soundtrack? Balkan Beat Box, Youssou N'Dour, jazz, world music
- Favorite candy? Pop Rocks
- Top 3 spices? Cumin, turmeric, paprika