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Lion’s Head Meatballs in Broth Recipe

Course: Main Course
Total Time: Under 4 Hours
Skill Level: Moderate
Cost: Moderate
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Lion’s Head Meatballs in Broth

Photo by: Joseph DeLeo

These Chinese meatballs are so named because of their large size. When served in the center of cabbage leaves, the dish resembles a lion’s head and mane; or at least that’s what they say. In any case it is an unusual, delicious dish that’s easy to make.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (butt or picnic), coarsely ground in a food processor or meat grinder
  • 1 scallion, trimmed and minced
  • One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil, grapeseed oil, or other neutral oil
  • ½ pound Napa cabbage, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 quart beef or chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, or to taste


1. Mix the first 8 ingredients together, just until combined, using your hands or a wooden spoon. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage and stir-fry until softened, about 5 minutes, seasoning with salt. Add the stock and bring to a steady simmer.

3. With wet hands, form 4 meatballs with the pork mixture; handle gently. Slide the meatballs into the stock, cover, and simmer, undisturbed, until cooked through, about 2 hours.

4. Place the cabbage in a soup tureen and put the meatballs on top. Spoon the stock over the dish, season with sesame oil, and serve immediately.


Deluxe Lion’s Head. Add ½ cup chopped reconstituted wood ear mushrooms and ¼ cup chopped peeled, fresh water chestnuts (or peeled jicama) to the pork mixture.

Lion’s Head Pie. A kind of delicious meat loaf: Omit the cabbage and stock. Press the pork mixture into a large shallow dish. Steam over hot water until cooked through, about 1 hour.

Pearl Balls. You may have eaten these in a dim sum house: Omit the cabbage, stock, and sesame oil. Soak 1 cup glutinous or sticky rice in water for 1 hour, then drain. Form the meat mixture into 1-inch balls, then roll them in the sticky rice to cover. Place the balls in a steamer and cook until the meat cooks through and the rice puffs and becomes sticky, about 30 minutes. Remove and serve


From: China

© 2005 Double B Publishing, Inc

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information is based on 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving.

757kcal (38%)
67mg (7%)
20mg (34%)
37mcg RAE (1%)
168mg (56%)
1328mg (55%)
16g (80%)
54g (83%)
3mg (19%)

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