Braised “Lion Head” Meatballs (紅燒獅子頭)

23 Mar


***I apologize for the quality of my photos.  Please know that I understand the importance of visuals in food blogging and am working on it. ***

First of all, what a funny name.  Disclaimer: Lion heads are NOT made of lion meat.  They start with a combination of 3:7 ratio fat to lean ground pork.  To make 10-12 fist size meatballs, you need about 1.5 lbs of ground pork.

Mix the pork with white pepper; one table spoon of rice wine; one table spoon of soy sauce; 20 shitake mushrooms, chopped; and— one box of soft tofu, broken down to tiny pieces. When I first learned of the tofu ingredient, I was surprised.  But apparently by adding tofu, the meatballs will have a silkier texture. You may also add other crunchy ingredients such as water chestnut, dried shrimp, etc.  Different chefs get liberal with what they like in their meatballs.  For me, I chopped some ginger for the crunchy purpose.

After thorough mixing and kneading, form the pork mixture into fist size meatballs, and throw each one down against the bowl repeatedly to loosen the meat.  This technique is used across cultures: Italian meatballs need this step too, to make the texture of the meat more gelatinous, of which Chinese people call “flicking at your teeth (彈牙).”

Work that right arm...

Now roll them meatballs in corn starch and pan fry all sides until golden.  At the same time, start a pot of water to blanch some Napa cabbage.  I used about 10 leaves.  They shrink after being blanched, so if you want your veggies, don’t be shy.  The water used for blanching can also serve as the soup base for the meatballs.  To make the soup: Add a few pieces of ginger, one scallion, and a dash of soy sauce and a table spoon of rice wine to the water.  Depending on what you like, you can add more shitake mushrooms (as I did), or bamboo shoots.  Once the soup came to a boil, add them meatballs in there.  Now give the meatballs a nice long bath by simmering at low heat for at least 45 minutes.  To complete the dish, add rehydrated maun bean threads to the pot when ready to serve.

Voila, now you are a lion head eater.


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  1. The Namesake of Lion-Head « l k t c - March 25, 2011

    […] These meatballs were originally served to the emperor and the aristocrats, and considered quite a fancy treat.  It had a different name back then: Sunflower Treasure, as it was served to the rich and famous during the occasion of viewing sunflowers in bloom.  But soon the politically savvy at the time found a even better name for it, as the flag of the dynasty featured a lion, and the meatballs at the time were the size of wash basin— hence the “lion-head.” […]

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