A blog about life, food and photography.

Lion’s Head Meatballs

Lion’s Head Meatballs

DSC_1444

Chinese dishes always have very….poetic descriptions. While westerners may take them literally (with the exception of ‘ants on a log’) Chinese people like to describe what the dish looks like with creative names. Lion’s Head meatballs, since the meatballs are so humongous, resemble a lion’s head in terms of size, whereas the Napa cabbage it is cooked with resembles the long mane.

When I was little, I really thought my mom was making meatballs out of actual lion heads. And she wouldn’t correct me, so I don’t know how long I took to finally realize they were just pork meatballs. Probably around the same time I found out Santa wasn’t real. Hey, if you grow up Asian, your mom probably cooked with some pretty outrageous ingredients, so lion heads weren’t any more shocking than snails, or chicken feet, or beef tendon.

Other recipes I’ve seen have used breadcrumbs in the meatball mixture, but my mom used water chestnuts to create a less dense meatball. The addition of water chestnuts also adds an interesting texture as it gives the meatball some crunch and a bit of sweetness, something most meatballs lose out on when only using breadcrumbs. She also mixed the meat by hand, repeatedly kneading it and slapping it across the side of the bowl, or a large cutting board, until the meat became more tender.

I also modified my recipe by adding Shaoxing wine in the meatball marinade, as well as the sauce. Shaoxing wine adds that depth that I love in these comforting, saucy, meaty dishes. And after the entire dish simmers with the meatballs and Napa cabbage, the sauce becomes so silky and, for lack of a better word, luxurious. I don’t know what ingredient actually adds this silky, almost gelatinous texture (maybe the wine?), but spoon it over your steamed white rice and taste the epitome of comfort food, and enjoy how it warms your insides.

You can add some cornstarch slurry in the end of the cooking process, if you want the sauce to have a thicker consistency. My mom never did it, because they preferred a thinner consistency. I like my sauce to be more of a hearty stew, and stews are thick, so cornstarch slurry it is.

Lion's Head Meatballs

November 8, 2017
: 4-5
: easy

By:

Ingredients
  • MEATBALL INGREDIENTS:
  • 1.5 lb. pork (80% lean)
  • 4 oz. canned water chestnuts, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine (substitution: Sherry)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • OTHER INGREDIENTS:
  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage (10-12 leaves)
  • oil for pan frying
  • cornstarch for dredging
  • chopped scallions for garnish
  • 1 in. knob ginger, peeled and quartered
  • SAUCE INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 cup Shaoxing wine (substitution: Sherry)
  • 3 cups chicken or beef broth
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • salt to taste
  • CORNSTARCH SLURRY:
  • 3.5 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chicken or beef broth (substitution: water)
Directions
  • Step 1 In a large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients together. Repeatedly knead the meat mixture with your hands and slap it across the side of the bowl or cutting board every so often. Form into 4-5 meatballs and set aside.
  • Step 2 In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp. oil over medium high heat. Dredge meatballs with cornstarch and place into pot, and very carefully turn and brown all sides with tongs or spatula. It does not have to be cooked all the way through. Add ginger and cook for a minute. Set meatballs aside on a plate.
  • Step 3 In a large bowl, combine ingredients for the sauce.
  • Step 4 Add the washed Napa cabbage leaves into the pot. Gently place the meatballs back into the pot on top of the cabbage, and add the sauce mixture. Turn the heat up to boil, then lower to a simmer, cover with a lid for 1 hour.
  • Step 5 Carefully take the meatballs and cabbage out and place in a large bowl or rimmed serving dish. Add the cornstarch slurry at this point, and stir until sauce is thickened. Adjust your seasonings at this point and salt to taste. Pour sauce over the meatballs, garnish with scallions and serve over steamed rice.

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Instructions with Photos:

DSC_1436

This is the brand of cooking wine I always buy. If you have trouble finding this wine, you can substitute Sherry instead.

DSC_1380

My husband is never crazy about meatballs, but he loved the texture of the water chestnuts in this one. It makes the meatballs springier and lighter. Mince the chestnuts as you would finely mince ginger, and add them into your meatball mixture.

DSC_1411

I used 10-12 large Napa cabbage leaves. I don’t cut them because they soften as they simmer in the dish, but you can cut them vertically if you wish. You want to keep the length because it will resemble the lion’s mane that way.

Untitled-1

In a large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients together. Repeatedly knead the meat mixture with your hands and slap it across the side of the bowl or cutting board every so often. Form into 4-5 meatballs and set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp. oil over medium high heat. Dredge meatballs with cornstarch and place into pot, and very carefully turn and brown all sides with tongs or spatula. It does not have to be cooked all the way through. Add ginger and cook for a minute. Set meatballs aside on a plate.

DSC_1425

In a large bowl, combine ingredients for the sauce.

Add the washed Napa cabbage leaves into the pot. Gently place the meatballs back into the pot on top of the cabbage.

DSC_1441

Add the sauce mixture. Turn the heat up to boil, then lower to a simmer, cover with a lid for 1 hour.

DSC_1462

Carefully take the meatballs and cabbage out and place in a large bowl or rimmed serving dish. Add the cornstarch slurry at this point, and stir until sauce is thickened. Adjust your seasonings at this point and salt to taste. Pour sauce over the meatballs, garnish with scallions and serve over steamed rice.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *