What meatballs are like around the world


Published February 18, 2014

| The Daily Meal

What meatballs are like around the world

What meatballs are like around the world

Swedish meatballs, Mexican meatballs, Turkish meatballs... How do you like your meatballs?


The Italian meatball is one of the world’s most popular, and for good reason: It makes up one half of spaghetti and meatballs, quite possibly the world’s most notable dish. Seasoned with olive oil, oregano, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, you may find some studded with garlic and onion, and others with a dash of parsley, red wine, and sometimes even balsamic vinegar. They’re rarely served with pasta in Italy, but they go with it very well.


Typically rolled small and pan-seared in a copious amount of butter, these meatballs often get a bad rap because of their association with a certain gigantic furniture store (Ikea) and microwave dinners. That said, there’s nothing like biting into a juicy Swedish meatball covered in creamy gravy made with beef or chicken stock and dill. Nutmeg, ginger, and clove can be mixed into the meat to give it its signature Swedish flavor (although they’re not used in every recipe), and mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam are ideal accompaniments.


Infused with Sriracha and pungent nuoc mam, aka fish sauce, Vietnamese meatballs are a far cry from what nonna whipped up back in Sicily. Instead of finding them atop pasta, you’ll find these meatballs in the sandwich called bánh mi, crushed between two halves of baguette, garnished with spicy mayo, pickled daikon radish and carrot, fresh cilantro, and chiles.


Did you know that people eat lion’s heads in China? It’s true. But not in the way you’re thinking. Lion’s head is the name of a Chinese meatball that’s first browned in a pan and then finished by being boiled in broth. Scallion whites, ginger, Shaoxing wine, and soy sauce add flavor, while water chestnuts provide crunch. The meatballs can be served on a bed of cellophane noodles and napa cabbage, or simply with some more soy sauce by themselves.


Mexican meatballs are known as albóndigas and are often found in a garlicky, tomato-based soup with rice, potatoes, and other vegetables. The albóndigas themselves typically have rice mixed into them, along with onion, garlic or garlic powder, and black pepper, so their texture is more interesting than the average meatball.

See more meatballs from around the world.

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