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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Kubeh: Dumplings with History & Roasted Eggplant
Photo: Rebecca Fondren

Kubeh: Dumplings with History & Roasted Eggplant

Once upon a time there was a nice Jewish girl from Long Island who fell in love with the Iraqi-Israeli cooking of one of her ex-boyfriend’s Mom.

Specifically, she fell hard for kubeh, a Middle Eastern dumpling with sprawling roots throughout Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan. When this labor intensive comfort food arrived in Israel, with Iraqi immigrants in the 1950’s, subsequent generations of cooks learned how to prepare this iconic dish from their grandmothers.

fish kubeh, NYC
Photo: Rebecca Fondren

When Melanie Shurka was in Israel about a decade ago, she was reminded of her love for kubeh, with all of its shapes, fillings and broths. She came back to NYC and tested a boat load of recipes. She even gaged New Yorkers’ interest with a pop-up event (three seatings each night) that convinced her that she should follow her passion and open the only kubeh restaurant in the United States. WOW!

Melanie Shurka at Kubeh
Melanie Shurka at Kubeh. Photo: Rebecca Fondren

After researching, recipe testing and networking like a boss, Shurka returned to Israel to learn how to roll kubeh with the women who knew best.

She networked and researched with great determination and chutzpah. She eventually found Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian women, mostly grandmothers, who were willing to share their time honored techniques with her in their home kitchens. This is how Melanie Shurka became a kubeh expert.

When Shurka returned to NYC, she opened Kubeh in the West Village in NYC.

Her menu includes plenty of vibrant salads and spreads. Hummus is on the menu as is Roasted Eggplant Salad (recipe below). Fresh ingredients shine in their simplicity on small plates piled high with warm cauliflower florets simply dressed with vibrant olive oil, sea salt and a generous dose of chopped parsley.

Kubeh hummus
Hummus at Kubeh. Photo: Rebecca Fondren

Traditional spreads of soothing chilled Labneh and coarsely chopped red pepper, walnut, pomegranate Muhammara arrive in advance of the stars of the show.

When ordering kubeh, Shurka allows for personal preference by offering diners the option to chose pairings of fillings and rich broths.

Kubeh Lentil Salad
Photo: Rebecca Fondren

Servers are helpful in guiding best flavor combinations. Shurka, herself, somehow manages to be both chef and host. She greets guests as old friends and assists first timers who may be unfamiliar with these flavors. I’ve seen men and women, with roots in various parts of the Middle East, close their eyes as they lift spoons with fragrant broth to their nostrils.

They are inhaling the flavors of home.

This is not a kosher restaurant, rather a comfortable cafe with plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options woven throughout the menu.

Best kubeh options for those who are kosher like me are the Syrian Fish with ground wild cod, cilantro and cumin in Tumia broth (tomato, fennel, mint and arak) or the Iraqi Vegetable Kubeh, a finely textured dough filled mushroom dumpling in shimmering beet broth (called Selek).

Mushroom Kubeh
Mushroom Kubeh in Hamusta broth. Photo: Rebecca Fondren

Want more mushrooms? Consider the Mushroom Kubeh in Hamusta broth, redolent of earth and citrus as swiss chard, zucchini and lemon surround the gently seasoned filling in a bowl of comforting deliciousness.

Shurka’s recipes for kubeh are hard earned and prized. I wouldn’t even consider asking for one and frankly, I hope she wouldn’t share. Instead, I encourage my readers to visit Kubeh to taste the real deal dumplings of the Middle East.

Nobody else in NYC is doing it better.

Kubeh 

464 Avenue of Americas, NYC

Open 7 days a week. Check website for hours.

NOTE: JDC Food Circle  coordinated this brunch at Kubeh, NYC. Our foodie team curates global culinary journeys that highlight chefs, restaurants and food ways that connect to the humanitarian work to rescue and revive Jewish communities across the globe. We welcome you to learn more and join us in our delicious community by connecting here.

Friend me at my Kosher Like Me facebook page for invites and calendared events as we plan our autumn get togethers.

roasted eggplant salad, Kubeh, NYC
Roasted Eggplant Salad at Kubeh. Photo: Rebecca Fondren

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