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Lion's Head Meatballs


  • 1 ½ cups boiling water

  • 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms

  • For the Meatball Mixture:¼ cup minced canned water chestnuts

  • 1 (8 ounce) container firm tofu, chopped into small bits

  • 1 pound fatty ground pork (at least 20% fat)

  • ¼ cup finely sliced green onions (white and light green parts only)

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger

  • 2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry (see Note)

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (Optional)

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch

  • For the Cooking Liquid:1 small head napa cabbage

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons sherry wine

  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil, or to taste

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (Optional)

  • 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch

  • For the Garnish:¼ cup sliced green onion tops

  • 2 tablespoons hot chili oil


  • Pour boiling water over shiitake mushrooms, and let sit until soft enough to slice, about 1 hour.

  • Step 2

  • Meanwhile, combine chestnuts and tofu in a large bowl. Add ground pork, green onions, garlic, and ginger. Pour in rice wine, soy sauce, salt, cayenne, brown sugar, and egg. Dust with cornstarch. Mix with a clean hand until thoroughly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

  • Step 3

  • Form mixture into 6 large meatballs with wet hands.

  • Step 4

  • Set an oven rack about 8 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven's broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and oil lightly. Place meatballs on the prepared baking sheet.

  • Step 5

  • Broil in the preheated oven until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while prepping the pot.

  • Step 6

  • Trim off the bottom of the head of cabbage and slice 1/2 of the head. Arrange sliced cabbage on the bottom of a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Arrange the remaining leaves on the top. Slice and scatter the mushrooms on top of the cabbage; reserve shiitake liquid. Nestle the meatballs into the cabbage leaves and pour juices over.

  • Step 7

  • Strain reserved shiitake liquid into a bowl. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, brown sugar, and cornstarch. Whisk until dissolved. Add to the pot, pouring over each meatball. Bring to a boil over high heat.

  • Step 8

  • Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and raise heat to medium-high. Continue cooking, basting the meatballs often, until liquid reduces slightly and meatballs are no longer pink in the centers, about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

  • Step 9

  • Ladle into serving bowls and arrange cabbage over the meatballs. Top with green onions and chili oil.

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