Lion’s head meatballs

Lion’s head meatballs

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

So called because the bok choy (pak choy) looks like a lion’s mane and the meat looks like ... well, you can work that out. Don’t be fooled into thinking these are just another meatball; the texture of these is incredible. They’re a specialty in and around Shanghai where they are variously cooked in stock, as here, or in a more rugged red-cooked mixture (soy, sugar, shaoxing wine). By rights you should make your own mince by hand-chopping the best quality, fatty pork you can find — after 30 minutes of chopping with two cleavers the meat will be fluffy, creamy and soft — but using good quality, not-too-lean minced pork gives delicious results too (and you can then work that with cleavers if you want, to lighten your meatballs the cheat’s way).


Quantity Ingredient
500g minced pork
60g tinned water chestnuts, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons shaoxing rice wine
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons cornflour
8 heads baby bok choy, trimmed and halved lengthwise

Cooking liquid

Quantity Ingredient
1 litre Chicken and pork stock
60ml light soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar


  1. Combine the pork, water chestnuts, egg, rice wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and cornflour in a bowl and stir to combine. Use your hands to knead the mixture for 5 minutes, or until slightly elastic. Divide the pork mixture into four even portions and form each portion into a large ball.
  2. To make the cooking liquid, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan large enough to hold all the meatballs in a single layer, and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the meatballs and bring the liquid back to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, turning the balls over once.
  3. Add the halved bok choy to the pan, then cover and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and the bok choy is tender. Divide the liquid, meatballs and bok choy among four large bowls and serve immediately.
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