Cookbook Profile

(Persian Chicken and Chickpea Balls)


Gundi is a cross between a dumpling and meatball. The most popular type is made from chicken and roasted chickpea flour.

Origin: Persia

Other names: gondi, gundi nokhochi, kufteh-e ard-nokhochi

The most beloved, and arguably the most distinctive, food in Persian Jewish cuisine is gundi (Farsi for "testicles of'), a variation of the Persian kufteh (meatball). By far, the favorite version is made with ground chicken and roasted chickpea flour, which provides a nutty taste and also transforms it from a meatball into a dumpling.

Chicken in Persia was historically more expensive than meat and reserved for special occasions. Turkey has become a more recent substitute, but, when necessary, veal or even beef is used. Although similar in appearance to an Ashkenazic matza ball, gundi taste very different. The proportion of chickpea to chicken, as well as the types and amount of spices, vary from home to home, although cardamom and turmeric are constants. Turmeric imparts a yellow color as well as an interesting aroma. Some cooks prefer a prodigious amount of ground pepper. Many versions are akin to large curried meatballs. Some recipes direct cooks to shape the balls into the size of "a small lime," while others specify the size of "an apricot."

Gundi may be featured alone as an appetizer, typically with fresh herbs and wrapped in flatbread, or served in a soup or sauce. Lamb and beef gundi are more commonly cooked in a sauce, while chicken and veal gundi are usually simmered in soup (ahgush-e-gundi). They are traditional in chicken soup (morgh-gushe gundi nokhochi) for Sabbath dinner, Rosh Hashanah dinner, and the Passover Seder. Persians do not generally add carrots and celery to chicken soup, but Ashkenazim in Israel typically do when making this dish. Some cooked chickpeas are generally added to the soup for garnish and textural contrast. Any leftover dumplings are eaten with bread and sabzi (chopped mixed fresh herbs) at Sabbath lunch. Gundi also appear at the meal before the fast of Yom Kippur; for that occasion, the balls and soup contain less spice and salt, to prevent thirst.

Sabbath night gundi in chicken soup is usually served with chelow (steamed rice). A large spoonful of rice is placed in the bottom of each bowl and topped with a ladle of chicken soup and several cubes of potatoes, pieces of chicken, and chickpeas, then a few gundi are added, then the dish is sprinkled with a little sabzi and, for a more intensely sour flavor, limoo omani (ground dried limes).


Persian Chicken and Chickpea Balls (Gundi)

About 18 medium meatballs



1. In a medium bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients, adding enough water to form a mixture that is smooth but not sticky. Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours. Using moistened hands, shape into smooth 1-inch balls.

2. In a large pot, bring the chicken soup to a boil. Add the potatoes, lemon juice, turmeric, and salt and simmer For 30 minutes. Add the gundi and, if using, chickpeas, cover, and simmer until the gundi are tender, about 40 minutes.


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This page created December 2010