Lion's Head

Lion's Head is a simple country dish made with meat and vegetables; yes, that's it. But what's with the name? The idea is that — OK, a little imagination would help here — a large meatball presented on top of a bed of braised cabbage, vaguely, resembles the head and mane of a lion.

Lion's Head is a very popular dish in modern-day Shanghai cuisine, even though it traces its origin to Yangzhou in eastern China. It is a slow-cooked dish, not one to be rushed because it takes time for the pork and cabbage to develop flavor. When you have an afternoon free, put some music on, pour yourself a glass of wine, put yourself at ease, and then get started in the kitchen.


*Note: Although Lion's Head is best made slowly, you can make this dish in a shorter amount of time by using a different cut of pork. I'd suggest center loin or pork loin, which is leaner and more tender than shoulder. But, be sure to only reduce oven cooking time to 30 minutes; you can choose to simmer the pot on stove at medium-low heat instead. Give it a try!


  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Shao-Hsing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 Teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 water chestnuts, chopped finely (optional)
  • 1 Pound ground pork butt, preferably from the shoulder*
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging the meatballs
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small head Napa cabbage, cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Cup chicken broth
  • Cooked rice, for serving (optional)


Calories Per Serving349

Folate equivalent (total)119µg30%

Riboflavin (B2)0.6mg36.1%

Lion's Head

It's an old and oft-repeated story that this dish—a big, round meatball surrounded by cabbage and noodles—got its name from its resemblance to the shaggy mane of a lion. (The Chinese language is nothing if not descriptive.) However it was named, I love this dish because it's one my mother made a lot. Lion's Head is a Shanghai specialty, although two towns with a friendly rivalry, Wuxl (my parents' hometown) and neighboring Yangchou, also claim to have invented the dish. Yangchou, I have to admit, has recently become something of a food-lover's destination. The food of Shanghai and its region is renowned for deeply flavored, slow-cooked and braised dishes. Although Lion's Head is a rustic and hearty home-cooked dish, I used to serve it at banquets at The Mandarin, particularly to Shanghainese expatriates, who, like me, missed it terribly.


1 large head (about 1-1/2 pounds) napa cabbage

4 ounces bean-thread (cellophane) noodles

1/4 cup (about 4 ounces) drained and finely minced canned water chestnuts

1 tablespoon minced green onions, white part only

1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger

3 tablespoons premium soy sauce

1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying


1. Trim off the root end of the cabbage head and reserve. Quarter the leaves lengthwise and then cut them again crosswise into thirds. Set aside.

2. To prepare the noodles, pour hot water over the bean-thread noodles in a bowl, and let them soak until they are soft, about 15 minutes. Keep the noodles in the water until ready to use, as they tend to dry out quickly.

3. To form the meatballs, combine the pork, water chestnuts, green onions, ginger, 2 teaspoons of the salt, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, wine, and white pepper in a bowl. Using your hands, gently mix all of the ingredients together until well combined. Don't overmix or the pork will become gummy. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Using a 1/2-cup measure, loosely form the pork into 4-ounce balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Set aside.

4. Line a plate with paper towels and have it ready near the cooktop. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until a bead of water dances on the surface and then evaporates. Cover the bottom of the skillet with a thin film of the oil and swirl to coat. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in the bottom of the pan, but do not overcrowd them (depending on the size of your pan, you might need to cook the meatballs in several batches). Decrease the heat to medium and cook the meatballs, turning with tongs to cook evenly, until all sides are well browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to the prepared plate. Repeat this process for as many batches as needed.

5. Put the reserved root ends of the cabbage in the bottom of a large saucepan. Gently place the meatballs on top and pour over the chicken broth and the 1/2 cup of water. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to medium-low, and simmer the mixture, uncovered, until it has cooked down a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the cut-up cabbage leaves and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and continue to simmer until the meatballs are cooked thorough and the cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes more.

6. Drain the noodles, add to the saucepan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and stir to combine well. Remove the pan from the heat.

7. To serve, arrange the meatballs on top of the cabbage and noodles on a platter. Serve immediately.

Excerpted from The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco by Cecilia Chiang (Ten Speed Press, 2007). Copyright 2007 by Cecilia Chiang.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Recipes

Michigan Mushroom Co’s favorite mushroom snack is when we slice the Lion’s Mane into steaks and cook it slowly with butter and pepper. Just slice it up and pan fry it. Minutes later, you’ll have rich, seafood-esque striation like a piece of chicken breast.

  • 1 medium head of Lion’s Mane (Or enough equal to a head of cauliflower)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • Pepper
  • Salt

Sometimes on the farm, we’ll smoke our Lion’s Mane with other vegetables like tomatoes or cauliflower so you don’t fire up just for a little bit of mushrooms. We recommend 30 minutes with hickory

Even if you don’t smoke the mushrooms, they still turn out great!

Wash mushrooms thoroughly. Cut the mushroom into 1/2 inch steaks or as best you can, uniformly. Place them in a frying pan on medium. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes and flip until the mushrooms have released water and start to brown. Add the butter and be sure that every piece gets a bit on both sides. Be careful as you handle them and try not to stir them around. Season with salt and some ground pepper. Bring the heat down to low and cook until both sides are golden brown.


  • Dice Lion’s Mane mushroom into large pieces. Toss in olive oil and roast in oven, with garlic at 350 degrees for 30-40 mins. Turn halfway through. The mushroom will shrink substantially as the water cooks out.
  • When ready, put mushroom and garlic mixture in food processor and pulse 4-5 times until mix is broken down in smaller chunks.
  • In a separate bowl mix together the egg, soy sauce, Greek yogurt, lemon, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Use a whisk to evenly mix the wet ingredients. Add breadcrumbs, onions* and pulsed mushroom mixture.
  • *If you choose, you can saute the onions instead of using raw onions (this is optional). To do so, cook in a saute pan on medium-low with coconut oil, slowly sweating the onions until translucent (about 5-7 minutes).
  • Use an ice cream scoop or tablespoon (depending on the desired size of the crab cakes) to measure equal portions of crab cakes. With your hands, form into cakes.
  • Heat coconut oil in non-stick pan on medium heat and fry until lightly browned on both sides.
  • Finish with a touch of sea salt
  • For remoulade: Using a whisk, mix yogurt, mustard, parika, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Lion’s Head Meatballs Recipe

(Printable recipe)
By Christine’s Recipes
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 70 mins
Yield: 3 to 4 serves

  • 250 gm pork mince
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 80 gm mashed potato (see method below)
  • 3 Tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 3 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and diced
  • ½ Chinese sausages (aka lap chang 臘腸), blanched and diced
  • 1 egg white
  • 150 gm napa cabbage (aka Chinese cabbage)
  • 200 gm salt-reduced chicken stock
  • 3 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp corn flour / corn starch
  • pepper, to taste
  • sesame oil, to taste
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • ½ sp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • sesame oil
  • 1 tsp corn flour / corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp water
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork mince, ginger, mashed potato, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, chinese sausage, egg white and marinade. Stir in one direction until springy. Refrigerate for about 25 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C / 395F.
  3. Remove the pork mince from the fridge. Divide into 5 to 6 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball between your palms. (Note: Damping your hands with a bit of water will prevent the pork from sticking to your palms.) Spray or brush some oil on surfaces. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the surface turns brown.
  4. Transfer the meatballs into a wok or a heavy-bottomed pot. Pour chicken stock and sauce. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for another 10 minutes, until the meatballs and cabbage are softened. Add thickening and cook to your preferred consistency. Serve immediately.
  • Mixing in mashed potato helps the meatballs stay soft and smooth.
  • How to make mashed potato: Peel and dice a potato. Cook in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Drain out and mash them with a large spoon or a potato masher. Let it cool down. Measure out the quantity you need and mix with other ingredients. The remaining can be used with other dishes or stored in fridge for later use.
  • The breadcrumbs and egg white can help pork mince combine well.
  • You can use regular oven or pan fry the meatballs instead. If using pan-frying, the meatballs will be flattened a bit along the way of browning all sides. The taste is still good though.

***If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #christinesrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

How to Make Shanghai Lion's Head Meatballs

With a grand and exotic-sounding name, you'd think the Chinese meatballs know as "Lion's Heads" would be troublesome to make at home. Fortunately, they're as easy as can be. A Shanghai specialty, Lon's Head meatballs are made of simple, humble ingredients—namely pork and cabbage.

There are two versions of this dish in China. One is served in a rich, dark brown sauce the other in a lighter broth with vermicelli noodles. Both dishes usually include cabbage, and the meatballs are always big, like a lion's head (with a bushy mane). You can't go wrong with either preparation, but since I'm a huge fan of vermicelli noodles, especially when slow-cooked in chicken broth with cabbage and pork, that's the version I'm sharing here.

Before I started working on this recipe, I decided to visit Empress Garden, located in Philly's Chinatown, for inspiration. I love how they prepare the dish. The meatballs are juicy and the kitchen doesn't skimp on the vermicelli noodles, and they add Shanghai bok choy along with Napa cabbage.

Besides the fatty ground pork, they also add tofu to their meatballs, making them extra tender.

To make the meatballs, you want to use a mixture of regular ground pork and fatty ground pork. If you can't find fatty ground pork, you can finely mince or grind a piece of fresh pork belly. You can also omit the fatty ground pork and use regular ground pork, but that will result in a less tender and juicy meatball.

Mixed into the meatballs are both mashed tofu, for moisture, and canned water chestnuts, for crunch. You need to thoroughly dry the tofu before mashing it. To do that, blanch slices of tofu in boiling water for a few seconds, drain, and then pat them dry with paper towels.

I learned this trick from watching my parents cook—the hot water draws out excess moisture more effectively than patting the tofu dry and faster than pressing it. (This also works with other ingredients that release water during cooking, like mushrooms and squid.)

When combining the ingredients for the meatballs, be careful not to over-mix, lest they become tight and springy, and be gentle when shaping them as well.

Freezing and Storing Instructions

  • How to store: Store lion's head meatballs in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, simply reheat in a steamer or in a shallow saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of water if the sauce thickened up too much in the refrigerator.
  • How to freeze uncooked meatballs: You can freeze uncooked lion's head meatballs by placing them on a quarter sheet baking pan lined with parchment paper. Then transfer to the freezer and freeze until hard, about 1 hour. Then, transfer the meatballs to a freezer bag or freezer-safe airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • How to cook from frozen: Allow the meatballs to thaw overnight in the refrigerator first, then cook as per recipe instructions on the stove.
  • How to freeze cooked meatballs: Freeze cooled cooked meatballs by transferring into an airtight container or freezer bag. I would recommend freezing before mixing with the sauce, and making a fresh batch of sauce when ready to use.

Cooks traditionally start by hand-mincing some form of fatty pork&mdashmost often belly, though some recipes call for shoulder or butt&mdashwith the aforementioned seasonings and maybe an egg. But many contemporary recipes streamline things by calling for ground pork, so I seasoned 2 pounds of ground pork with salt and a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce, which enhanced the pork&rsquos flavor without adding too much liquid. I also added a bit of sugar, Shaoxing wine, white pepper, minced scallion whites (cooks often reserve the darker greens for garnishing), and grated fresh ginger. I added an egg to give the meatballs some structure before moving on to the first unique element of the meatball-making process: the mixing method.

Many recipes, including Dunlop&rsquos, call for working the meat vigorously by stirring and/or slapping it against the side of the mixing bowl. The effect is similar to sausage making, where thoroughly kneading the meat causes its sticky myosin proteins to cross-link and bind together into a strong network that makes the meat cohesive, fine-textured, and springy. It also helps trap moisture and fat for juicy meatballs.

We&rsquove achieved that sausage-like spring in other recipes by beating ground meat in a stand mixer, so I made a batch of meatballs using the machine and another using the traditional approach to see how each affected the texture. As a point of comparison, I also mixed a batch gently by hand, as I would Italian meatballs. I formed each mixture into balls with my wet hands (to prevent the meat from sticking to me) and then set th em aside (skipping browning) while I laid a single layer of napa cabbage leaves in a few Dutch ovens, added a quart of chicken broth to each pot, and brought the broth to a boil. I carefully arranged the meatballs on the leaves, covered the pots, and braised the meatballs in a 325-degree oven for 2 hours (the ambient heat would cook the meatballs gently with minimal attention).

As expected, the hand-mixed meatballs were tender, coarse, and a tad dry (because the myosin hadn&rsquot gelled as much, they hadn&rsquot trapped much moisture). Meanwhile, the meatballs made in the stand mixer were just as smooth, springy, and juicy as those made the traditional way, confirming that the mixer was a great option. But I took that sausage-y effect one step further by adding baking soda to the meat, knowing that the alkalinity would help the proteins dissolve and create a smoother, more cohesive mixture.

The practice of Braised Lion Head

Step 1

After washing the peeled pork, chop it into mincemeat knock into the egg, add salt, sweet potato starch, pepper

After washing the peeled pork, chop it into mincemeat

Step 2

Use chopsticks to circle and stir in the same direction until the meat filling becomes sticky

Step 3

Peel the lotus root and wash it, mince it after washing the old ginger and green onion, chop it separately

Peel the lotus root and wash it, mince it

Step 4

Put lotus root, ginger and shallot into the meat filling

Put lotus root, ginger and shallot into the meat filling

Step 5

Continue to use chopsticks to circle in the same direction and stir, so that the minced meat and lotus root are fully integrated

Continue to use chopsticks to circle in the same direction and stir

Step 6

Pour vegetable oil into the wok and heat it put the lotus root meat filling into a lion head and put it into an 80% hot oil pan to fry until it is set

Pour vegetable oil into the wok and heat it

Step 7

After 2-3 minutes of low fire, put the lion head out

After 2-3 minutes of low fire, put the lion head out

Step 8

In addition, prepare a pot, pour water, rock sugar, ginger slices, green onions, soy sauce, soy sauce, cooking wine, broth boiled

In addition, prepare a pot, pour water, rock sugar, ginger slices, green onions, soy sauce, soy sauce, cooking wine, broth boiled

Step 9

Place the lion head in the soup pot and simmer for 30 minutes

Place the lion head in the soup pot and simmer for 30 minutes

Step 10

Collect the juice and thicken it, turn off the fire and let it out, the lion head is good

Collect the juice and thicken it, turn off the fire and let it out, the lion head is good

Step 11

Finally, use a small milk pan to bake some vegetables

Step 12

[Braised Lion Head] Just do it. Finally, you get home cooking braised lion head.

Royal Lion's Head

These large meatballs are supposed to resemble the head of a lion, especially when served with cabbage leaves draped over them as a "mane." They are often served on special occasions to symbolize happiness.

2 tablespoons dried shrimp
1 pound lean ground pork
1/4 cup water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1 green onion (including top), thinly sliced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon sugar

vegetable oil for deep frying
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
8 large Chinese (napa) cabbage leaves
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


Soak shrimp in warm water to cover for 30 minutes drain. Mince shrimp and combine with remaining meatball ingredients. Set aside for 30 minutes. Shape into 4 large meatballs, each approximately 2-1/2 inches in diameter.

Set wok in a ring stand and add oil to a depth of about 2 inches. Over high heat, bring oil to 350 degrees F. Add meatballs and cook for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Lift out and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 2 tablespoons oil from wok and set wok over high heat until hot. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Add meatballs, broth, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Place cabbage leaves over meatballs. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes longer. Sprinkle with sesame oil before serving.

Tip: If a thicker sauce is desired, transfer cabbage and meatballs to a platter with a slotted spoon. Add 3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/3 cup water to sauce, and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens.

Reprinted by permission from A Wok for All Seasons by Martin Yan (Doubleday).

Lion's Head (Pork Meatballs and Napa Cabbage) - Rachel Ray 365

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add salt and the rice. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Set aside.

Drizzle some oil in a small nonstick skillet preheated to medium-high heat, then cook the mushrooms and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with a little salt. Remove from the pan and cool for 5 minutes.

Pour 2 inches of the oil in the bottom of a large wok or wok-shaped skillet and heat over high heat.

Place the pork in a bowl. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Add the tamari, the egg, a few spoonfuls of the cornstarch, and the pepper. Use a pair of chopsticks to mix the meat , stirring only in one direction until combined. The mixture will be wet. Place all but one tablespoon of the remaining cornstarch on a plate. Form 10 to 12 large, soft meatballs and dust them lightly but evenly in cornstarch.

When the oil smokes, add the balls and flash-fry them for 2 minutes on each side, or until deep golden in color. Drain the balls on paper towels.

In a deep pot heat the chicken stock to a bubble. Add half of the cabbage, then layer in all the balls and remaining cabbage. The pot should be filled to the top. Place a lid on the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. the cabbage will cook down and add to the broth. Remove a ladle-ful of broth to a small bowl and dissolved a tablespoon of cornstarch in it, then return it to the pot. Simmer with the lid off for a minute or two to thicken the broth. Serve with the rice and extra tamari.

8 Servings (4 if you're Rachel Ray, but nutrion facts are for 8 servings)