- 1 pound plus 2 ounces minced pork
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated root ginger
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 organic or free-range egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 pinch ground white pepper
- 3½ ounces rapeseed oil, for frying
- 2½ cups water or vegetable stock
- 11 ounces Chinese napa cabbage, quartered lengthways from leaf to stem
- 3 dried Chinese mushrooms, rehydrated in warm water for 20 minutes, drained and sliced
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch blended with 2 tablespoons cold water
- sea salt
- ground white pepper
- 2 large spring onions, sliced
- cooked jasmine rice
This dish originated from Shanghai, and it is said that it was an imperial dish that the emperor ate. It is called lion's head meatballs because it is large in size — some as large as a small tennis ball, some as large as a fist. The meatballs are marinated, deep-fried and then braised in a simple stock with cooked-down Chinese napa cabbage. The meatballs resemble the head of the lion, and the curved napa cabbage wraps around the meatball, resembling the mane. My mother cooked this dish when we were younger and told us that we would be as strong as lions if we ate it.
Technique tip: Use wetted hands when shaping the meatballs.
Swap option: You can use minced beef instead of pork.
For the meatballs:1.
Put pork, garlic, ginger, spring onions, salt, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, egg, cornstarch and pepper into a large bowl and stir to combine, stirring in the same direction.2.
Using wetted hands, take a large mound of the minced meat mixture and mold into a ball larger than a golf ball. Place on a plate and repeat with the remaining mixture. (If you have time, refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours to help the meatballs set. If you don't have time, it's ok to cook them immediately).3.
Pour the rapeseed oil into a large deep pan or wok and heat over a high heat. Using a temperature thermometer, measure the temperature of the oil; if it is 350 F, then using a metal ladle, carefully lower each meatball into the oil and spoon over some of the oil over the meatballs. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, until browned.
For the broth:1.
Pour all but 2 tablespoons of oil into a heatproof bowl. Transfer the meatballs to the pan. Add water or vegetable stock to the pan.2.
Arrange the slices of cabbage around the meatballs so that they curve around them lengthways, then add the mushrooms and soy, and bring to a boil.3.
Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mushrooms have infused the broth and the cabbage has softened, adding a sweetness to the broth. Add the blended cornstarch, if using, and stir until thickened.4.
Take it off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer each meatball with the cabbage hugging it, some mushrooms and broth to individual serving bowls and serve with and the spring onions and jasmine rice immediately.