Lion’s Head Meatballs

“Lion’s Head” Meatballs

Of course there’s no lion in it.  Supposedly it was given this name by Chinese cooks because the meatballs resemble the head of a lion and the cooked cabbage represents the mane.  This dish is traditionally cooked in a clay pot, but a deep sauté pan works just fine.  I find that traditional recipes cook the cabbage way too long, so I add the cabbage later in the cooking process.  The chili sauce is not traditional, and therefore optional.  I simply like to kick it up a notch.

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 4 green onions (scallions), roots removed and chopped fine
  • 1 egg white or 2 tbsp egg substitute
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Asian chili sauce (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2 cups hot chicken broth (heat it up in the microwave)
  • 2 cups rice
  • One small head Napa cabbage

Mix pork, green onions, egg, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and chili sauce together very well with your hands (I use disposable vinyl gloves as the mixture can get quite sticky).  Form the mixture into 4 baseball-sized meatballs.  Mixture will be pretty soft.   Heat up the oil over medium high heat in a deep sauté pan.  Spread the cornstarch in an even layer on a baking pan.  Roll the meatballs in the cornstarch to lightly coat them. When oil is hot, add the meatballs to the pan.  Do not crowd them.  Using a slotted spoon carefully turn them when they are brown on the bottom to evenly brown them all over.  When meatballs are evenly brown, add half the chicken broth and bring it to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low and cover the pan with the lid slightly ajar for 30 minutes.

While meatballs are cooking make rice.  Put rice in a pot and cover with about half an inch of water above the top level of the rice.  Turn the heat to high.  When the water boils, turn the heat down to low.  Cover the rice and let it steam-cook until the meatballs are completely done.

Cut the stem end off the Napa cabbage and separate the leaves.  Rinse them well.

When the meatballs have cooked for half an hour, carefully remove them from the pan with the slotted spoon and put them on a plate.  Layer the cabbage leaves on the bottom of the pan (the cabbage will shrink a lot, so don’t work that this looks like a huge amount of cabbage).  Replace the meatballs on top of the cabbage and pour the remaining broth (reheated in the microwave) over the meatballs and cabbage.  Raise the heat to high and bring everything again to a boil.  Turn heat down to medium low, partially cover the pan and cook for another 30 minutes or until meatballs are fully cooked and cabbage is tender.

Apportion meatballs and cabbage over rice in soup bowls. Makes 4 servings.

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