Lion’s Head Meatballs

November 2, 2022

One dish that has long been missing from our menu is Chinese braised lion’s head meatballs. Now that Chinese New Year is here again and a new decade is dawning, we felt it was high time to commit this long-honored recipe to paper.


Large pig meatballs are known as Lion’s Head Meatballs (shīzitóu), and they are traditionally served steamed or cooked with vegetables. It’s a dish that’s good for any occasion, but especially at holiday times!

Huaiyang cuisine, one of China’s four major cuisines, principally represents the culinary traditions of Jiangsu Province in Eastern China, and Lion’s Head is a classic dish in this cuisine as well. Huaiyang cuisine is distinguished by its sweetness, lack of spice, and minimal use of chili peppers, as well as by its usage of the region’s signature Zhenjiang vinegar.

Lion’s Head Meatballs come in two distinct flavors. There is a “red cooked” variety that is typically served with napa cabbage and a “simple” kind that is steamed or cooked in broth (braised in soy sauce). In other preparations, pork fat makes up a bigger percentage of the total.

Today’s rendition, although still having enough fat to be tasty and luscious, leans more toward the meaty side. The red-cooked version, too!



  • 3.5 ounces of canned water chestnuts
  • 450g of fatty ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 minced ginger
  • 1 minced scallion
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of five spice powder
  • vegetable oil (frying the meatballs)


  • 10g of rock sugar
  • 2 scallions (2-inch lengths, separate the white and green parts)
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • baby bok choy for serving



  1. For the meatballs, choose fatty ground pork. You may either go to the butcher and have them grind some pork shoulder fat for you, or you can utilize our hand-chopping method and do it yourself.
  2. The ideal ratio of meat to fat is 70/30, however, 80/20 will do in a pinch. The ground pork should be moved to a big basin.
  3. Add an egg, breadcrumbs, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper, five spice powder, cornstarch, and water to the bowl of minced ginger and scallions.
  4. For about 10 minutes, whip in one direction until the beef mixture becomes thick and paste-like. This is a crucial stage in ensuring that your meatballs have the desired texture and won’t break apart while frying.
  5. Cleave or chop the water chestnuts on the side to mash them and then mince them very small.
  6. For another 5 minutes, continue to combine with the meat. A rubber spatula will do the trick for combining ingredients.
  7. Oil should be heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/175 degrees Celsius in a small, deep pot (less oil is needed for a smaller pot). You should make sure there’s enough oil to fry the meatballs without them crowding the pan, but not so much that the oil will spill over.
  8. Using your lubricated hands, form the meat mixture into 8 or 9 balls. Drop the meatballs two at a time into the hot oil and fry for two minutes per batch or until they are evenly browned. With a slotted spoon, take out the meatballs and set them aside.


  1. Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok over low heat. For 1 minute, add the ginger and the scallion whites and simmer. The sugar can then be added and cooked with the rest of the mixture until it is completely dissolved.
  2. Shaoxing wine (one tablespoon), light soy sauce (two teaspoons), dark soy sauce (one tablespoon), oyster sauce (one tablespoon), and water (one and a half cups). Put the liquid through a stirring process and then bring it to a boil.
  3. The fried meatballs should be added once the stew has come to a boil. Cook, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes on medium/low heat, turning the meatballs once halfway through.
  4. About 3/4 cup liquid should remain after simmering. To serve, remove the meatballs from the broth and arrange them on a serving platter.
  5. Create a slurry of cornstarch and water, and add it to the sauce to make it thicker. Once the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon, add the scallion greens and sesame oil. Add the meatballs to the sauce and wilted scallions.
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