Comida di Buteco, Dona Zena's meatballs have been a favorite on Dona Zena's eponymous restaurant in downtown Fortaleza for more than 20 years. They're no flash in the pan - some of the dish's biggest fans grew up on these meatballs, and are now passing their love onto their children and grandchildren.
Previous posts on Flavors of Brazil have highlighted the restaurant and the prize-winning chef, so it's entirely appropriate that we end our series of posts on Dona Zena with her authentic recipe, courtesy of Brazilian food website Receitas & Dietas (Recipes and Diets).
This recipe is very simple, and maybe it's the simplicity itself which makes it appeal to so many people. There are no ingredients that are difficult to source or very expensive. True Brazilian comfort food that deserves a place in your repertory.
RECIPE - Dona Zena's Meatballs (Bola da Carne da Dona Zena)
Makes 12 large meatballs
2 1/4 lb (1 kg) good quality ground meat - ground chuck is best
1/2 cup ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup onion, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
neutral vegetable oil for frying
In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients, mixing them together with your moistened hands. Try not to press or compact the mixture.
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or cooking parchment. With moistened hands divide the meat mixture into twelve portions and form each portion into balls by rolling it between your palms. Don't over-compact the mixture - it should be pressed together only enough to make it keep its shape.
In a large deep frying pan, heat a small amount of oil, then fry the meatballs, in batchesof 4, turning them over frequently until they are cooked through and nicely brown on all sides. Remove each batch, reserving and keeping warm, before continuing with another batch, until all the meatballs are done.
Serve 3 or 4 meatballs per person, accompanied by a lettuce and sliced tomato salad and white rice.