Kibe (pronounced kee-bee)
I was first introduced to Kibe by Adele, a dear Brazilian lady in our church in New York City. She is one of the best cooks I know, so we are always delighted to taste her creations. Most recently I was reminded of Kibe when I posted a request for idea for a Brazilian snack to take to a church potluck. Althea responded with this recipe. She’s a veteran missionary to Brazil (a veteran missionary is one of those people who has been in her host country forever but still looks really young, at least on her prayer card). Althea says you can’t have a party in Brazil without Kibe. This notion was confirmed by Lilian, my cousin’s wife, who actually IS Brazilian. She says it might be Lebanese, but it's also one of her favorite comfort foods.
Kibe is probably Brazilian like Pizza is American (or is it Italian?), but whether you call it Lebanese or Brazilian, it’s delicious, and will be hit—at your dinner table or your church’s International Potluck. Here is Adele’s version of Kibe.
3/4 cup bulgur wheat (see substitution below)
1 cup water (to cover)
2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup cilantro
3/4 tsp. salt (to taste)
½ tsp. cinnamon (optional)
½ tsp. pepper (to taste)
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Oil for frying
1. Cover bulgur wheat with water and soak overnight (or use boiling water, cover wheat and let rest ½ hour)
2. Finely chop/mince the onion, garlic, parsley, mint, green onion and cilantro. Combine with meat in food processor and pulse for 1 minute.
3. Drain the wheat and press excess water out. Add wheat, salt and pepper to the food processor for an additional 2 minutes.
4. Make “cigar” shaped meatballs by taking 1-2 tablespoons of meat and rolling between hands. (“Football” shaped might be more authentic, but Adele likes hers more skinny and long like a cigar, and I think they are easier to cook evenly.)
5. Roll “meatball” (either cigar shaped or football shaped) in bread crumbs.
6. Evenly coat bottom of frying pan with oil and fry in small batches over medium heat. Every 2 minutes, roll another third of the way around, for a total of 6 minutes. Remove extra drippings after each batch and keep oil fresh.
Substituting hard-to-find ingredients has always been second nature for me. Growing up in Mexico on a tight budget and long before free trade made for great training ground. Today I live in one of the most international cities in the world, and I’m sure there is nothing I couldn’t find here if I tried. I don’t know if I’m cheap or lazy, but most days I think it’s more fun to see what substitutions I can come up with from my own cupboard. The first time I made Kibe, I tracked down the proper ingredients, the second time, I used these substitutions. Both ways seemed pretty authentic!
If you can’t find bulgur wheat in your corner of the world, try this: pulse wholegrain brown rice in the blender ¼ cup at a time to coarsely ground. Soak and treat the same as bulgur wheat. White rice would probably work, too. It should be raw when you grind it.
If you can’t find mint leaves try a package of peppermint tea! It is dry, therefore more concentrated, so I just used the leaves from one tea bag plus a bit more parsley.
Both substitutions ended up tasting quite similar to the “real deal”. Enjoy!