獅子頭 (shi zi tou) Lions Heads, these large fragrant meat balls surrounded by shreds of cabbage are said to resemble the head and shaggy mane of a lion. Perhaps if you squint. Despite whether you can make that imaginative leap or not Lion’s Heads are, thanks to the ginger and Shaoxing rice wine coupled with the slow braising, richly aromatic and delightfully tender.
Lion’s Heads originated in Jiangsu 江蘇 Province just north of Shanghai 上海, the red braised version being associated with the region of Zhenjiang 鎮江 and the plain version associated with the region of Yangzhou 揚州. Lion’s Heads are often served as part of the Chinese New Years celebration, however they are far too good to only be eaten once a year.
紅燒獅子頭 Red Braised Lion’s Heads
- 1 lb ground pork (preferably a little on the fatty side)
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 1 t. grated fresh ginger
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 T Shaoxing rice wine (紹興米酒)
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 egg
- 1 T cornstarch
- oil for frying
- 1 lb of chinese cabbage, cut into about 2 inch pieces, or baby bok choy
- 4 T of oil or lard
- 4 or 5 black chinese black mushrooms soaked (optional)
- chicken stock
- 4 T soy sauce
- 1 t sugar
- 2 T rice wine
- Mix the ground pork with the green onion, ginger, soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, salt, egg and cornstarch. Mix well. Form into 4 large meat balls
- In a wok or a deep pan heat enough oil for deep frying to about 350 F. Fry the meat balls until golden. (you can skip this step, you will still end up with a nice stewed meatball, just the flavor will be a little less complex)
- In another pan add the 4 T of oil or lard, briefly saute the cabbage with a pinch of salt
- Put the cabbage in the bottom of a casserole dish (or a small pot) put the meat balls and the soaked mushrooms on top of the cabbage and add just enough stock to cover. Add the rest of the braising ingredients (soy sauce, sugar, rice wine). Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
沙鍋獅子頭 (sha guo shi zi tou) Sand Pot Lion’s Heads
Very nearly the same dish. These plain Yangzhou style Lion’s Heads are brazed in stock without the soy sauce giving them a slightly lighter flavor. Omit the mushrooms from the ingredients and omit the soy sauce, sugar and rice wine from the braising liquid. Otherwise proceed with the recipe as usual. Both are excellent.