recipe

Lion’s Head Meatballs: a delicious classic Chinese New Year recipe

Total time: 80 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 8 people
By Cookist
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Ingredients
for the meatballs
Ground pork
1 pound
Ginger
1 slice
spring onion, minced
1
Large egg
1
Breadcrumbs
3 tbsp
Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp
Light soy sauce
1 tbsp
Oyster sauce
1 tbsp
White pepper
1/2 tsp
five-spice powder
1/4 tsp
Cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp
Water
1/4 cup
canned water chestnuts
3.5 ounces
Oil
for the sauce
Oil
1 tbsp
Ginger
2 slices
green onions, sliced, white and greens separated
2
rock sugar
10 g
Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp
Light soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp
Dark soy sauce
1/4 tsp
Oyster sauce
1 tbsp
Water
1 1/2 cups
cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp of water
1 tsp
Sesame oil
1/4 tsp

Mouthwatering lion's head meatballs are a common dish served in banquet-style Chinese New Year celebrations. It's a classic Huaiyang dish, made from large braised or steamed pork meatballs seasoned with aromatic ingredients like ginger, Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, five-spice, and other tasty, fragrant ingredients.

Lion's head meatballs are tender, moist, and especially delicious when served over a bed of steamed leafy greens like bok choy or cabbage. These succulent meatballs are incredibly easy to make, whether you're planning a Lunar New Year feast or whenever you're in the mood for a phenomenally flavorful pork dish.

What Are Lion's Head Meatballs?

Lion's head meatballs (or shīzitóu) are a wonderful Huaiyang dish made from fatty ground pork. The name comes from the fact the meatballs look similar to the head of the Chinese guardian lion (also known as foo dog).

Lion's head meatballs can be made plain and steamed or braised in soy sauce, giving them a reddish color. They're typically served over steamed leafy greens like Napa cabbage or boy choy, which represent the mane of the lion.

These delicious meatballs are usually served at celebrations, but you can make them any time the mood strikes!

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How to Make Lion's Head Meatballs

It's easy to make homemade lion's head meatballs. We've outlined each step here to make prepping and cooking lion's head meatballs effortless. Let's dive in!

Make Meatballs

Grab a large bowl and combine the ground pork, ginger, spring onions, egg, breadcrumbs, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper, five-spice, cornstarch, and water. Mix everything together until you get a paste-like consistency.

Using the flat side of your knife, crush the water chestnuts, then mince them. Add the water chestnuts to the meat and mix everything for another 5 minutes. Heat the oil to 350F. Grease your hands with a splash of oil and shape the meat mixture into 8 to 9 meatballs.

Fry the meatballs for 2 minutes, or until they turn a lovely golden brown. Make sure to work in batches so you don't overcrowd the pot. Scoop the meatballs out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl.

Make the Sauce

To make the sauce, heat some oil in a wok over a low flame. Fry the ginger and white part of the green onions. Stir in the sugar and cook until it dissolves. Stir in the Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, and water.

Braise the Meatballs

Let the sauce come to a boil, then add in the meatballs. Cover the wok with a lid and cook the meatballs in the sauce for 12 to 15 minutes over medium-low heat. Take the meatballs out of the wok and place them on your serving dish.

To thicken the sauce, add in the cornstarch slurry and let it cook for a few minutes. Once the sauce reaches your ideal consistency, stir in the sesame oil and green part of the green onions. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and serve over a bed of steamed greens.

What to Serve with Lion's Head Meatballs

Serve your lion's head meatballs with bok choy, cabbage, steamed rice, or noodles.

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Tips for the Best Lion's Head Meatballs

If you don't have Shaoxing cooking wine, you can use dry sherry as a substitute.

Use fatty ground pork to make your meatballs. 70/30 is ideal, but you can use 80/20 instead.

Use a candy thermometer to know when the oil has reached the ideal temperature for cooking the meatballs.

Did you know you can easily make vegan lion's head meatballs? Instead of pork, you can use tofu or vegan “pork.”

How to Store Lion's Head Meatballs

Keep your meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days.

Can You Freeze Lion's Head Meatballs?

Absolutely! Place cooled meatballs into an airtight container and freeze them for 2 to 3 months.

Instructions

Combine ground pork, ginger, spring onions, egg, breadcrumbs, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper, five-spice, cornstarch, and water in a bowl.

Mix the ingredients in one direction until the mixture takes on a paste-like consistency, about 10 minutes.

Crush the water chestnuts, then mince them. Add the water chestnuts to the meat mixture. Mix for 5 minutes.

Pour oil into a deep pot. Heat it to 350F. Lightly grease your hands and shape the meat mixture into 8 or 9 meatballs.

Put the meatballs into the oil one at a time. Working in batches, fry for 2 minutes, or until golden brown.

Take the meatballs out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl.

Pour oil into a wok and heat over low. Fry the ginger and white part of the green onions for 1 minute. Stir in the sugar and cook until it dissolves.

Stir in the Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, and water. Bring the sauce to a boil.

Add the meatballs to the sauce, then cover the wok with a lid and cook for 12 to 15 minutes over medium-low heat.

Flip the meatballs once halfway through cooking.

Take the meatballs out of the wok and place them on a serving plate.

Pour the cornstarch slurry into the sauce. Let the mixture thicken for a few minutes.

Once thickened, stir in the sesame oil and green part of the green onions. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and serve.

Notes

Use a neutral oil for cooking the meatballs and making the sauce. Vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, refined coconut oil, or canola oil are all excellent options.

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