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Lion’s Head Meatballs with Napa Cabbage

This recipe for Lion’s Head meatballs is from the cookbook, I Love Meatballs, from Rick Rodgers.

Author Rick Rodgers notes:

This is a gently flavored dish that reminds me of the Cantonese Chinese restaurants of my youth, before I became enamored of spicy Szechuan and Hunan cuisines. The big pork meatball nestled in a bed of leafy greens is said to resemble a lion’s head and its mane. You can use your favorite Asian green (bok choy is also good), but I prefer the mild, sweet flavor of napa cabbage.

Lion's head meatballs recipe - www.cooksandbooksandrecipes.com

Lion’s Head Meatballs


Cooks&Books&Recipes Featured Cook Katie:

For a test recipe, I decided to make one of the more unusual dishes from I Love Meatballs!, finally settling on a Chinese recipe for Lion’s Head Meatballs with Napa Cabbage. This dish entailed frying up Asian-seasoned pork meatballs and then serving them over rice, topped with a lightly flavored broth. The long list of ingredients was a little daunting, but the recipe instructions were very clear and easy to follow, and the whole dish was ready in under an hour.

Lion's head meatballs recipe - www.cooksandbooksandrecipes.com

The dish was perfectly seasoned, and the meatballs were the best I’ve ever made. They were wonderfully crisp on the outside (Rodgers suggests rolling them in cornstarch before frying) but delectably tender and flavorful inside. A week later I couldn’t resist trying out another recipe from the book and decided on a more classic meatball dish with a recipe for Checkered Tablecloth Spaghetti and Meatballs. Again, there was a long list of ingredients, but each step was very clearly explained, and the resulting meal was wonderful. I wonder what kind of meatballs I’ll be making this week . . .

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We hope you enjoy this lion’s head meatballs recipe!

Review of the I Love Meatballs! cookbook - www.cooksandbooksandrecipes.com

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Lion's Head Meatballs with Napa Cabbage

Featured Recipe From: I Love Meatballs!

Yield: 4-6 Servings


  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 scallion, white and green parts, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup drained and minced canned water chestnuts
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and shredded fresh ginger (use the large holes on a
    box grater)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons Asian dark sesame oil, plus more
    for serving
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed through a press
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (1 3/4-pound) napa cabbage, cored and cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • 1/2 cup canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Hot cooked rice, for serving


  1. 1. To make the meatballs, combine the ground pork, scallion, cornstarch, water chestnuts, egg, ginger, soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 4 hours. Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the pork mixture into 8 equal large meatballs. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Put the cornstarch in a shallow bowl. Roll each meatball in the cornstarch, shaking off the excess, and place in the skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, return the meatballs to the plate.
  3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the garlic to the skillet and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. In batches, stir in the cabbage and cook until wilted. Add the broth, soy sauce, and sugar and bring to a boil. Nestle the meatballs in the cabbage. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Spoon the meatballs, cabbage mixture, and cooking liquid into shallow bowls. Sprinkle with minced scallion and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve hot, with the rice and additional soy sauce passed on the side.

© 2011 Rick Rodgers

Reprinted with permission from I Love Meatballs, by Rick Rodgers (Andrews McMeel Publishing)

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