Ah, Passover. When it comes to Jewish holidays, this one isn’t as culinarily exciting as, say, Purim (which involves getting drunkie drunk and eating hamantaschen), or Hanukkah (one word: latkes). However, food plays an important part of the ritual meal, and the most important of all the symbolic foods eaten is surely the matzo, or unleavened bread. And as Jews all over New York (and the world) ask why tonight is different from all other nights, here at Fork in the Road, we ask: Why are some matzos different from all other matzos? And what matzos will be tastiest with the charoset?
We decided to taste-test three of the main brands of matzo on the market, and opted for the traditional, unsalted varieties. We bypassed matzos made with eggs, since this kind of defeats the whole point of this comparison, no? We probably could have gone with artisanal ones, too, but really, how artisanal can you get when it’s just flour and water?
Yehuda matzos are actually made in Jerusalem and imported to America, and according to its packaging, it’s the only matzo brand in the San Francisco Chronicle Hall of Fame. But really, what’s the competition? However, when comparing it with the other brands, it was clear that it was baked much longer, since it appeared nicely colored throughout and had small perforations.
Streit’s matzo — which have been around since 1925 — has a home-court advantage since it’s made nearby in their factory on Rivington Street. Tours are available, and it’s definitely worth checking out. This matzo was lightly colored but appeared as though it had been cooked slightly unevenly around the edges, and looked like it was cut from a larger sheet.
That leaves Manischewitz, unquestionably the most popular brand of matzo. The box displays their whole line of products (gefilte fish, Tam Tams, egg noodles, and the like) while advertising an odd partnership with Season products (Oriental noodles, duck sauce, and sardines … a greatest hits of the 1950s, perhaps). The company has been making matzos for 120 years, which is quite a while.
We tasted all three blind. Yehuda, was quite pleasing flavor-wise … well, as good as an unsalted cracker can be. But it crumbled well and had a good “cooked flavor,” making it the winner by a long shot. The taste of the Streit’s was a little milder than that of the Yehuda, and really almost identical to a Carr’s cracker. A worthy second. And that leaves the Manischewitz in third, given its chalky taste (and not to mention its sad appearance).
First place: Yehuda
Second place: Streit’s
Third place: Manischewitz
Now you just need some parsley dipped in salt water and you’ve got yourself a meal worthy of Jesus!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 18, 2011