Lion's Head Meatballs With Chinese Cabbage

Lion's Head Meatballs With Chinese Cabbage

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 4 meatballs
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
477 Calories
33g Fat
10g Carbs
34g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 477
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 33g 42%
Saturated Fat 10g 49%
Cholesterol 155mg 52%
Sodium 1719mg 75%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 34g
Vitamin C 32mg 159%
Calcium 151mg 12%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 944mg 20%
*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.)

Shanghai lion's head meatballs are traditionally braised in a sand clay pot, but this version may be cooked in a Dutch oven or deep sauté pan. The name comes from the dish's appearance. The large meatballs represent the lion's head and the greens—typically bok choy or napa cabbage—represent the mane. The meatballs are subtly flavored with a bit of soy sauce, wine, green onion, and ginger. Lightly browning the meatballs adds to their flavor and color, and the broth is served with the meatballs and greens.

The big, baseball-sized meatballs are traditional, but you may shape the pork mixture into 6 to 8 smaller meatballs if you wish.

Serve lion's head meatballs with the tender braised greens and cooking broth along with hot steamed rice or noodles.

"I used napa cabbage in the recipe and the dish was super easy and delicious. The meatball mixture was fairly wet, so I added between 3 and 4 tablespoons of cornstarch. The texture of the meatballs was excellent." —Diana Rattray

Lions Head Meatballs Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1 pound bok choy, Napa cabbage, or spinach leaves

  • 1 to 2 medium green onions (spring onions, scallions), minced

  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 pound ground pork

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry or Shaoxing wine

  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 dash ground black pepper (or white, to taste)

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather ingredients.

    Lion's Head Meatballs With Chinese Cabbage ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    Wash and drain the bok choy and cut into pieces

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Mince the ginger and green onion.

    Mince the ginger and green onion

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

     In a small bowl, beat the egg with a fork

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    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

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Add as much cornstarch as needed to make so that the mixture is not too wet, start with 3 tablespoons and then add 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

    add cornstarch to the meat mixture

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    meat shaped into patties

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    oil in a wok

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  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).

    meatballs cooking in a wok

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  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.

    heat the chicken broth and 2 tablespoons soy sauce

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    meatballs in the broth mixture

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  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.

    Add the bok choy to the pot with the meatballs

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    meatballs cooking in a pot with the bok choy

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  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.

    Lion's Head Meatballs With Chinese Cabbage

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Tips

  • When you remove the ground pork packaging, pat the meat lightly with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  • To keep the pork mixture from sticking to your hands when shaping the meatballs, wet your hands with water.


Recipe Variations

  • For extra texture mince 6 to 8 water chestnuts and add them to the pork meatball mixture.
  • Shaoxing rice wine may be used instead of dry sherry.


How to Store and Freeze

  • Transfer leftover meatballs to an airtight container within 2 hours and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
  • The meatballs may be frozen for longer storage. Put in an airtight container or zip-close freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.