Lion’s head meatball is a cuisine from Eastern China; Jiangsu province to be precised. Why the dish is called this name is because the meatballs (size of a small fist) resemble lion heads while the cabbage and bok choy act as its mane. In Chinese culture, lions are the guardians of the palace and buildings. Because it symbolizes peace and harmony, lion’s head meatball make a great Chinese New Year meal.
Before you proceed, here’s a bit of fyi cum warning (hehehe). This recipe is ideal for minced pork lovers and feel free to adjust the meatballs seasonings. You will find it boring if you eat lots of this (even for a minced pork lover like myself). So make the size of the meatballs like mine or smaller and only allocate 1 meatball per person.
Start by preparing the ginger and spring onion juice.
Heat oil over high heat in a frying pan and fry the meatballs on both side until browned. You don’t have to cook the meat thoroughly as it will be braised later. Remove meatballs and drain on paper towels.
Now we’re ready to braise the meatballs.
In a claypot or large pot, place cabbage at the base, then add soaked dried shrimps and meatballs. Cover 3/4 with chicken stock. Recipe actually ask to cover completely with stock but I find the soup too full once the cabbage soften.
Cover pot with lid and simmer for 40 minutes over low heat.
After 40 minutes, add seasoning, glass noodles and bok choy. Cook for 3 minutes to allow glass noodles to absorb the gravy. Finally remove from heat and serve immediately. This dish is best when it’s eaten hot/warm.
Lion’s Head Meatballs
Adapted from Flavors magazine Jan-Feb 2009
Ginger and spring onion juice
This is used in Taiwanese dishes to get rid of smells and stomach wind.
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons spring onions, chopped
Blend together the ginger, spring onions and water.
600g minced pork (use fatty meat from hind trotter-chee kiok as lean meat tends to be dry)
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons ginger and spring onion juice+pulp (recipe above)
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of white pepper
oil for frying
350g napa cabbage, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon dried shrimps, soaked and drained
chicken stock to cover (I used Korean anchovies stock)
1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
few drops of sesame oil
dash of white pepper
50g glass noodles (tang hoon), soaked
4 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise (I used 2 large bok choy)
To make meatballs:
1. Place meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix until it becomes sticky.
2. Divide mixture into 7 portions equally (about 100g +/- each) and form balls. (Note: The recipe actually indicate 4 balls but I find them too big)
3. Heat oil over high heat and deep fry the meatballs until browned on both side. (Note: You don’t have to cook thoroughly as it will be braised later)
4. Remove the meatballs and drain on paper towels.
1. Place cabbage and dried shrimps in a claypot or large pot. Then place meatballs on top and cover 3/4 with chicken stock.
2. Simmer, covered with lid for 40 minutes over low heat.
3. Add seasoning, glass noddles and bok choy. Cook for 3 minutes to allow glass noodles to absorb the gravy.
4. Remove and serve immediately.