Lion's Head Meatballs With Chinese Cabbage

chinese lion's head meatballs in a casserole dish

Getty Images / Lcc54613

  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
477 Calories
29g Fat
11g Carbs
42g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 477
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 37%
Saturated Fat 8g 39%
Cholesterol 324mg 108%
Sodium 1143mg 50%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Protein 42g
Calcium 100mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Traditionally this Shanghai casserole dish featuring oversized pork meatballs and greens is made with pork fat and cooked in a sand clay pot. The large meatballs are meant to represent a lion, and the shredded greens its mane.

If you like, instead of 4 large meatballs you can form the pork into 6 to 8 smaller meatballs.


  • 1 pound bok choy, Peking cabbage ( Napa cabbage or spinach leaves)
  • 1 to 2 green onions (spring onions, scallions, minced)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger (minced)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound pork (ground)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (granulated)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sherry (pale dry)
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • Optional: Black pepper (or white, to taste)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch (or flour)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather ingredients.

  2. Wash and drain the bok choy or other greens. Cut crosswise into 3-inch strips.

  3. Mince the ginger and green onion.

  4.  In a small bowl, beat the egg with a fork.

  5. In a medium bowl, combine the ground pork with the green onion, ginger, salt, sugar, dry sherry, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, Asian sesame oil, pepper if using, and the egg, using your fingers to mix together the ingredients thoroughly.

  6. Add as much cornstarch as needed to make so that the mixture is not too wet, start with 2 tablespoons and then add 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

  7. Form the ground pork into 4 large meatballs. Flatten them a bit so that they are not completely round.

  8. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat.

  9. When the oil is hot, add the 4 meatballs. Cook for 5 minutes until browned on the bottom. Turn and cook the other side (adjust the heat if the meatballs are cooking too quickly).

  10.  In a flameproof casserole dish or saucepan that is large enough to hold the meatballs, heat the chicken broth and 2 tablespoons soy sauce to boiling.

  11.  Add the meatballs, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

  12. Add the bok choy to the pot, either arranging on top of the meatballs so that it steams, or placing directly in broth if there is room.

  13. Simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and there is no pinkness in the middle.

  14. To serve Lion's head meatballs, serve each meatball on a small plate surrounded by the greens, or in soup bowls with some of the bok choy and broth. You can also thicken some of the broth with a cornstarch and water thickener and pour over the meatballs.