Story and photos by Lisa Shifren

The soup was definitely on at the Great Chicken Soup Cook Off last Sunday afternoon, Oct. 9, at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in East Baltimore.

More than 100 people attended the two-and-a-half-hour gathering, united by their common affinity for chicken soup (aka “Jewish penicillin”) and a quest to find the best chicken soup in Maryland.

The event was inspired by the JMM’s current exhibition, “Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America.” Eleven contestants participated in the competition, which was divided into such categories as traditional, alternative, free form and under age 16.

Judges and guests enjoyed an eclectic mix of chicken soup variations to vote on, such as lemon grass, schmaltz, chicken soup with curry and cilantro, and a version of Maryland crab soup made with chicken instead of crab, just to name a few.
There were also interactive activities for kids, including creating take-home herb gardens with Edible Eden Baltimore, and soup bowl decorating.


Amid the smiles and slurping of soup, there was some serious judging going.

The contest was judged by Sam Gallant of WTMD radio station; Tom Lovejoy, executive chef for Eddie’s of Roland Park; Tony Gambino of Ciao Bella Restaurant in Little Italy Marvin Pinkert, the JMM’s executive director; and all of the guests who attended voted on the Audience’s Choice award.

While there were several awards given out for soups in each category, the overall chicken soup champion award went to Betsey Kahn, who made her own traditional recipe.

Kahn, 90, a retired teacher who lives in Guilford, said she was very excited about her victory.

“It has been really interesting being a part of this event,” Kahn said. “Chicken soup is something I really enjoy cooking — messy sometimes, but it’s worth it.

“This was a special thing to do with the Jewish Museum,” she said. “I have been volunteering here for the past 25-30 years, and the Jewish Museum of Maryland is part of my family. My father, Moses Rosenfeld, was one of the founders of the museum.”



Betsey Kahn’s winning recipe:



1 Roasting chicken               3 Carrots, sliced

4 Celery stalks, sliced           3 medium Onions, sliced

2 large Cloves of garlic        ½ large Lemon, juice and rind

1 Tsp Pepper                        1 Tbsp Salt

1 Tbsp. Season All               6 C Water

1 ½ C medium Barley           2 pkts Chicken Herb Ox

2 32 oz. Chicken broth                   1 16 oz. Frozen corn

1 16 oz. Frozen peas


  1. Place the chicken, either whole or cut up, in a 4 qt. pot,
  2. Put celery, carrots, onions, and garlic in the pot.
  3. Add 6 cups of water, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon rind, and Season All. Cover the pot and bring the liquid to a boil,

Turn the heat down and cook for at least 2 hours.  The chicken will be “fall off the bone” at that time.

  1. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the pot to a plate and remove the skin from all the parts. BE CAREFULL TO REMOVE ALL BONES FROM THE BROTH.
  2. Add as much of the pulled chicken as you want in the broth.
  3. Add the barley to the broth and cook for another ½ hour.
  4. Add frozen corn and peas to the broth as well as the 2 packets of Herb Ox and (2) 32 ounce boxes of chicken broth.
  5. Continue cooking for another ½ to ¾ of an hour.

Additional winning recipes:

Best Traditional Chicken Soup: Mary Brady and her “Schmaltzy Soup”

Schmaltzy Soup

How to make ton of Schmaltzy Chicken Soup

  1. Take a chicken, young or “stewing” (e.g., OLD). This recipe does not discriminate.
  2. Discard the neck and Chop up the giblets.
  3. Cover the chicken in cold water in a BIG pot. Boil that devil for a few minutes and then simmer it for an hour, until the meat falls off the bones.
  4. For each chicken, shred a pound of carrots, celery and shallots.
  5. Sauté the shredded vegs and giblets in schmaltz for

Kosher version; butter for non-Kosher version.

  1. Add Minor chicken base to the stewing chicken (this is the top-notch chicken stock; available at BJ’s; if you can’t get it use any chicken stock.) Add vegetable stock, as well – about a quart of stock for each bird.
  2. Pick out anything you don’t want to eat, e.g. bones and giant pieces of skin. Leave some skin in.
  3. Combine the sautéed vegs and the meat and simmer all for an hour.
  4. Cool in the fridge overnight and then take off most of the fat – leave about a third.
  5. Bring to a boil – add a pound of Manischewitz curly egg noodles – cook until the noodles are al dente.
  6. Enjoy!

Best Alternative Chicken Soup: Adam Yosim and his “Tom Kha Chai”

Tom Kha Chai


3 lb. chicken wings

1 large onion, quartered

1-2 garlic cloves, smashed

3 quarts water


2-3 quarts chicken broth

1 T ginger, chopped

1 T garlic, chopped

1/4 cup red curry paste

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 can of coconut milk

1 lb. boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

2-3 T fish sauce

2-3 T cilantro

Optional: scallions, lime wedges

For the broth:

1.Place quartered onion, smashed garlic cloves, chicken wings, water, salt and pepper in a crockpot.

  1. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-8.
  • Remove solids and strain broth.


For the soup:

  • Heat a stock pot to medium heat. Cook garlic, ginger and red curry paste for 5 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add chicken and stir for 2 minutes.
  • Add onions, mushrooms and red pepper. Cook for 2-3 more minutes.
  • Add chicken broth, coconut milk and fish sauce. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Serve with fresh herbs, scallions and squeezed lime juice.

Director’s Choice: Lan Pham Wilson of Morestomach Blog‘s “Lemongrass Chicken Soup”

Lemongrass Chicken Soup

Lemongrass chicken & rice soup
serves 6-8

homemade stock:1-2 kosher chicken carcasses, depending on how big they are
3 large carrots, washed, tips trimmed and rough chopped
3 stalks of celery, washed and rough chopped
6 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and slightly bruised
2″ knob of ginger, slightly smashed
3-4 garlic gloves, whole but slightly smashed
handful of kefir lime leaves
1 small-medium onion, quartered
3-4 red Thai chilis, whole and scored
palm-full of whole black peppercorns

2-3 carrots, washed, peeled & diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
meat of kosher rotisserie chicken, shredded
1/2 cup rice
1/8-1/4 cup kosher fish sauce (I used Red Boat)
1 TBL oil, olive oil or grapeseed extra flavoring:
2-3 lemongrass stalks, slightly bruised
1″ knob of ginger, slightly smashed
1-2 garlic cloves, slightly smashed
1/2 small onion, cut in half
1-2 red Thai chilis, whole and scored
splash of neutral oil, like grapeseed

chopped cilantro
chopped red chili (very, very optional) in a crock pot, add all the stock ingredients in and add water till it covers everything. Lid, turn on low and walk away. I’ve done it for as short of amount as 4 hours and for as long as over night (about 7-8 hours). Strain and set aside. to make the extra flavoring, in a small frying pan gently warm a splash of oil and sauté all the ingredients. Be gentle, you’re just warming the ingredients through so they can release their aroma and flavor. Keep on low, ignore and every so often move the ingredients around so they don’t feel neglected and burn.

In a big pot, heat up the oil and sauté the diced onion until softened, you’re not looking to caramelize it though so be careful. Add in the minced garlic, carrots and celery and mix thoroughly. Carefully pour in the stock. Add in the extra flavoring & shredded chicken, and bring to a boil. Lower heat.

Add in the 1/2 cup of rice, stir, lid and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until rice is cooked.

Season with fish sauce, to taste.

At this point, you can fish out the random flavorings, or just avoid them when ladling the soup.

Serve with lime wedges and topped with chopped cilantro and chopped red chili.


Lisa Shifren is a Baltimore-based freelance photographer and writer.


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