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Romanian Sour Meatball Soup: Ciorba de Perisoare

What's the big idea?

Ciorba is a distinctive type of Romanian soup that is soured with vinegar, sauerkraut juice or another souring agent. Sour meatball soup is among the most traditional of the sour soups, and indeed might even be viewed as Romania's national dish. However other forms exist too: cabbage ciorba is also popular, and ciorba de burta (tripe soup) is considered the ultimate hangover food in Romania! Traditional versions use lovage, a herb that is not always easy to track down. If you can't find it, celery leaves or parsley will do as substitutes.

Shopping List

Here's the list of what you need:

  • For the meatballs:
    • 2 slices bread
    • 500g minced (ground) lean beef or pork (or a combination)
    • 1 small onion, finely chopped
    • 2 tablespoons uncooked rice
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • For the soup:
    • 1 small onion, finely sliced
    • 1 bunch lovage leaves or celery leaves or parsley leaves, finely chopped
    • 1 peeled parsley root, finely chopped
    • 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
    • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
    • 1 pound beef or veal bone(s)
    • 4 tablespoons tomato purée
    • Salt as needed
    • 2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar
    • Sour cream for garnish

What To Do

  • In a large saucepan, bring 1½ liters of water to the boil
  • Add the sliced onion, lovage, parsley root, parsnip and carrots
  • Add the beef or veal bones. Bring back to the boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered
  • Meanwhile, make the meatballs by first soaking the bread in some water, and then squeezing it dry
  • Mash the soaked bread in a large bowl. Add the minced (ground) meat, onion, rice, salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of water
  • With wet hands form the mixture into small meat balls. Set aside
  • When the vegetables in the saucepan become tender, carefully drop in the meatballs. Simmer for 30-40 minutes
  • When the soup is almost done and the meatballs come to the surface, add the tomato purée and stir well
  • Season with salt and vinegar. If desired, serve with a dollop of sour cream

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