Lion’s Head Meatballs

By Peter Meehan

Photo: Gabriele Stabile

The dish is sort of a stew but lighter: The meatballs, greens, and a little broth are all spooned over rice noodles. It’s commonly known as lion’s head meatballs, because the wavy greens or noodles ringing the meatballs look like…a lion’s mane? Maybe if you squint. In Chinese, they’re called shih tzu tou, which the non-Chinese speakers among us can’t help but see as shihtzu tou, so maybe they’re really supposed to look like little lapdog heads. Even if they are taxonomically ambiguous, they are inarguably good eating.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 lb ground pork (preferably very fatty; have your butcher grind pork belly, for example)

1 C chopped scallions

2 T soy sauce

1 T sugar

1 T Shaoxing wine

1 T minced garlic

1 T minced fresh ginger

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t sesame oil

1 egg

2 T cornstarch

Neutral oil

1 lb napa cabbage or bok choy, leaves separated, chopped if desired

2 C chicken broth

White pepper

Cooked rice noodles or rice, for serving

Directions

  1. Put the pork in a large bowl and break it up with your hands. Add the scallions, soy sauce, sugar, wine, garlic, ginger, salt, and sesame oil and work the mixture to combine. Add the egg and cornstarch and vigorously mix, picking up and slapping the mixture back into the bowl a few times to create a tacky texture. Roll the meat into eight 2-inch balls.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven and add enough meatballs to fit comfortably in a single layer. Sear them until browned all over, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with any remaining meatballs. Remove the pan from the heat and wipe out the pan.

  3. Line the pan with the cabbage or bok choy, arrange the meatballs in a snug single layer on top, and add broth to come within . inch of the tops of the meatballs. Cover the pot and set over medium heat. Gently simmer until the greens are tender and the meatballs are cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve over rice noodles or with steamed rice.

Exclusive from LUCKY PEACH PRESENTS 101 EASY ASIAN RECIPES. Copyright © 2015 by Peter Meehan. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photograph copyright © 2015 by Gabriele Stabile.