Matzah ball ramen soup, wakame: New foods seen spicing up traditional seder meal

Tastewise, a startup that uses AI to analyze food trends, shows what is hot on social media and in restaurants, ahead of Passover and Easter festivities

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Traditional Passover matzah ball soup. (jrwasserman; iStock by Getty Images)
Traditional Passover matzah ball soup. (jrwasserman; iStock by Getty Images)

Tastewise, an Israeli startup that uses AI tech to keep abreast of changing food trends by scouring menus and billions of social media posts, photos, and recipes, says matzah ball soup with Japanese and Mexican twists, as well as salty seaweed and beets replacing the traditional shank bone, will all be new stars at Passover seders this year.

The startup also says that Nutella pizzas, fluffy Georgian bread with cheese and runny eggs, and a Japanese squash called kabocha are foods that people are checking out to celebrate the holiday of Easter, when chocolate eggs and eggs of all kinds are traditional staples.

In a new report on what is trending for Passover and Easter this year, Tastewise, founded in 2017 by Alon Chen and Eyal Gaon, uses AI technology that is trained to read and register the changes made in over 150,000 restaurant menus in the US. When it combines that information with real-life interactions on social media, it is able to to predict what’s hot for foodies.

For Passover, Tastewise found a rise in mentions of matzah ball soup. Matzah is a  cracker Jews eat during the Passover festival instead of bread; matzah balls are made by mixing matzah flour — finely ground matzah — and eggs to form a soft ball that is boiled and served in piping hot soup.

Ramen Asian noodle in broth with (meatLisovskaya; iStock by Getty Images)

“Matzah balls, traditionally seen as a comfort food, are getting special attention with new fusions,” the report said, adding that social media mentions of matzah ball soup have risen by 8.3 percent, compared to last year.

Matzah ball and ramen, Japanese wheat noodles, “collide on social this year, to create one of the most exotic seasonal mashups,” the report said. Ramen are generally served in a meat or fish-based broth, with soy sauce or miso and dressings.

Matzah ball pozole is also trending on social media, the report said, with an almost 89% increase in social media mentions in the past four months. Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup made with hominy — or dried maize kernels — and meat and garnished with chili peppers, avocado, limes and salsa. It is traditionally served by Mexicans on New Year’s Eve.

A Japanese wakame seaweed salad (alpaksoy; iStock by Getty Images)

Salt water is a traditional part of the Jewish seder, evoking the Israelites’ tears during their time as slaves in Egypt, and also of their salvation via the Red Sea. This year, social media mentions of wakame, a healthy and salty seaweed, are up 37%, year on year, and are witnessing a 1% growth in menus, week on week, the report said.

For the steadfast vegans, roasted beets are set to replace the traditional shank bone — a nod to the Paschal sacrifice of ancient times. The fairly new approach is based on the recommendation of the 11th century rabbinic scholar, Rashi, who suggested that beets could be used instead. There is an 11% rise in social media mentions on the subject, Tastewise said.

Vegan delights are also trending for Easter festivities, the report said, with chestnuts, sundried tomatoes, and no-egg frittatas rising in social mentions.

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