Whether it’s piled atop a steaming bowl of pasta or smothered in marinara sauce, there’s no denying the appeal of a juicy meatball. Lucky for San Francisco residents, almost every culture has their own take on this meaty treat and the city houses quite a few of them. Here, a bit of a cultural lesson by way of hand-rolled meat: from fiery Mexican albondigas to pomegranate-speckled Iranian kufteh tabrizi, brought to you by our friends at 7×7.
Polpette – Most San Franciscans think of the Italian style meatball first, and every neighborhood has a favorite. We’re suckers for the crispy crust on Pizzeria Delfina‘s take, made with an old-school combination of beef, pork and veal that’s fired off in the pizza oven.
Kufteh – Zare at Fly Trap‘s pistachio meatballs have not moved from the menu since the restaurant opened four years ago. Chef Hoss Zare mixes beef with ground pistachios and tops the balls with a sauce of reduced pomegranate juice, wine and harissa adapted from his hometown of Tabriz, Iran.
Tsukune – Although the izakaya staple of chicken meatballs can come out dry at some restaurants, Izakaya Sozai‘s recipe is so failproof, it’s not even served with the usual dipping sauce of soy and egg yolk.
Xiu Mai – In Vietnam, meatballs can be found bobbing in pho, or stuffed into banh mi sandwiches with the usual accompaniments of pickled carrots, jalapenos, cilantro and a slab of pate. Here in the Tenderloin, Saigon Sandwich (560 Larkin St.) serves up a truly authentic rendition for just $3.25.
Albondigas (Mexican) – Newly available at Nopalito in the Inner Sunset, are a gorgeous version of Mexican meatballs topped with pickled red onions and crumbled egg over rice. Traci des Jardins also offers a traditional rendition in tomato-based broth at both Mijita locations.
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