Asian Cuisine

Shanghai Meatballs (Lion’s Head Meatballs)

Ground pork is not created equal.

Until a few days ago, I’d never bought ground pork. I do know the type of ground pork that my mom buys has a lovely fat marbling that result in luscious and juicy meatballs. It didn’t dawn on me until I bit down on my meatball and thought “holy crap, it IS possible to have a meatball that tastes worse than 92% lean ground beef” did I realize that the ground pork I picked up didn’t contain the slightest trace of marbling.

Lesson learned: ground pork doesn’t make everything taste better. Ground pork with fat does.

Shanghai meatballs (lion’s head) meatballs are typically gargantuan-sized meatballs that don’t joke around. The meatballs seemed a bit small but the flavor was spot on to the ones I’ve had in Chinatown.

Adapted from


1/4 pound regular-firm tofu, drained
3/4 pound ground pork
1/4 pound ground beef
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon minced ginger root
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced green onion
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno
2 cups canola oil, for frying
2 tablespoons peanut oil
12 shiitake caps, finely sliced
1 cup finely sliced carrots
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound Napa cabbage, shredded
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup bias-cut green onions
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water


Mash the tofu in a large bowl, then place in a small piece of cheesecloth. Wring the excess liquid from the tofu and discard. Return the tofu to the bowl. Add the pork, beef, egg, hoisin sauce, ginger, garlic, green onion, and jalapeno to the bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Form the mixture into 12 equal-sized meatballs and set aside. In a medium, heavy pot set over high heat, heat the oil to 350 degrees F.
Deep-fry the meatballs until brown on all sides in canola oil, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. In a wok over high-heat, heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. Add the mushrooms, carrot, salt, pepper and cabbage and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the meatballs, chicken broth, rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 10-12 minutes. Add the green onions and cornstarch slurry, and return to a boil, stirring well. Cook until thickened, and serve.


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