article I posted back in June 2010 on a Brazilian meat pie of Levantine origin called esfirra or esfiha (both pronounced the same way - es-FEE-ha). In the few months since it appeared in this blog, it's been viewed 514 times. I'm aware that the immigrants from Lebanon and Syria who arrived in Brazil in great numbers in the early decades of the 20th century brought with them many treasures, material and immaterial, but I wasn't quite aware that the recipe for esfirra was among them.
But since readers of Flavors of Brazil seem to be most curious about the Levantine influence on Brazilian cuisince, I thought it would be interesting and instructive to do some research on another extremely popular Arab-Brazilian dish called in Portuguese, variously, kibe or quibe. In most instances I have seen the word in most instances transliterated into English as kibbeh, but there are spelling variations in English as well as in Portuguese. All these words go back to a common Arabic root kubbe meaning "ball". And that's what quibe is, basically - a deep-fried ball of spiced ground meat mixed with bulgur wheat stuffed with (what else) ground meat. Originally the meat used in quibe was ground lamb, but in contemporary Brazil it's much more often ground beef.
To give some idea of the popularity of quibe in Brazil, there isn't a direct Portuguese translation for bulgur, the Middle Eastern cracked, parboiled and dried wheat. In Brazil, if you want to buy bulgur you have to look in the store aisles for trigo para quibe - wheat for kibbeh.
Brazilians love to eat quibe as a quick snack at a lunch counter, as part of a plate of Levantine mezze, or most often as a bar snack to enjoy with an ice cold beer. In more traditional establishments it's served with a tahini sauce, but the snack has become Brazilianized to the extent that it is more commonly spiced up with hot sauce or even ketchup.
The classic quibe is the deep-fried version, but there is also a baked variation which is less greasy and caloric. Additionally, there is a traditional variation (quibe cru) in which the meat and bulgur wheat mixture isn't cooked at all - it's served raw, as in steak tartare. Next post on Flavors of Brazil will have recipes for all three of these versions of quibe.