The classic meatball is often synonymous with Italy, known as polpette on the hallowed grounds of this foodie nation. You can just picture these juicy delights atop a bed of spaghetti, covered in a tomato-based sauce – perfection! But did you know that there is more to the Italian-style meatball? There are lots of variations found all over the globe; let’s take a look at these meatballs from around the world.
After the Italian polpette, köfte are possibly the most well-known type of meatball. Originally from Persia, the köfte are found in several countries. However, let’s bite into their Turkish roots. Using beef or lamb as the protein of choice, you can find different variations to try in Turkey. From baked into a tomato-, potato- and peppers-based casserole (Izmur köftesi), mixed with rice and boiled in a sour soup (Ekşili köfte), and even eaten raw – minced finely, seasoned and mixed with ground wheat (cig köföfte).
A famous tapas item, albondigas are perfectly paired with fresh bread to soak up the tomato and paprika sauce that it is served in. Albondigas are usually made with pork, lamb or even veal mince. Not only are albondigas found in Spain, but also in Spanish speaking countries like the Philippines.
Bún chả, Vietnam
Believed to have originated in Hanoi, Vietnam’s street food capital, bún chả are this foodie-centric country’s answer to the meatball. Commonly a lunch time staple for locals, bún chả incorporates flavoured pork mince which is flattened and grilled to smoky perfection. Served with vermicelli noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs, and the iconic nuoc cham dipping suace, make sure you get a bite of everything all at once for a flavour explosion.
Bitterballen, Netherlands and Brussels
Sharing many similarities, it comes as no surprise that bitterballen is shared across the two neighbouring countries of the Netherlands and Brussels. Beef meatballs are crumbed and deep-fried, a real juxtaposition of a crunchy exterior and a soft inside. Depending on the restaurant, they may serve bitterballen with a special gravy that includes shredded beef for an added textural component. Otherwise, mustard is the perfect dipping sauce along with a refreshing beer.
Meatballs in Sweden shot to fame by being a staple in IKEA’s food court menu. While the IKEA köttbullar are classic, you must also try them in a local Swedish café or restaurant. Swedes make köttbullar out of pork and beef mince before pan frying them. Drowned in a comforting, creamy white sauce, we live for the lingonberry jam that is the perfect sweet/savoury accompaniment to have with this dish.
Japan is renowned for their food, so it comes as no surprise that they are one of the very few countries to use chicken as the protein for their meatball. Tsukune are formed into more of a log shape around a skewer, then grilled over charcoal. Just before they’re cooked through, tare (a sweet soy sauce) is brushed on so the end result is a sweet, but smoky, perfect bite.
Königsberger Klopse, Germany
As the name suggests, königsberger klopse are from the Prussian city of Königsberg (now known as Kaliningrad in Russia). These now-German delights are made with an umami combination of veal mince, anchovies, capers, cream and egg. Boiled in a flavourful stock and served in butter- and wine-based sauce, Germans certainly know how to do good food well.
A Greek keftedes has similar ingredients to Turkey’s kofte (lamb/beef mince, herbs, red onion) but has its own Greek twist. Keftedes are popular amongst locals, so you’ll easily find them in restaurants as either an entrée, main or side. If choosing them as an entrée, they’ll come as part of a mezze platter with a creamy tzatziki sauce, olives and fresh pita bread; while a keftedes main will include a tomato sauce or with rice. It’s also common to find them alongside a hearty moussaka or zingy Greek salad. Take your pick!
While we struggle to pronounce ffagadau, we don’t struggle to love these unique meatballs. One of the only meatballs from around the world that is made using offal, the Welsh incorporate ground pork, liver and heart, wrap them in caul fat and roast them in the oven. And of course, it wouldn’t be a hearty Welsh meal with a rich onion gravy, mashed potatoes and buttered peas.