Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Lion's Head/Yang Zhou Shi Zi Tou

It's an old and oft-repeated story that this dish - a big round meatball surrounded by cabbage and noodles - got its name from its resemblance to the shaggy mane of a lion. Lion's Head is a rustic and hearty home-cooked dish and a Shanghai specialty, although two towns with a friendly rivalry, Wuxi and Yangchou, also claim to have invented this dish. The meatballs taste better if the pork is hand chopped but for simplicity and ease, lean ground pork is just fine.


1 large head(about 1 1/2 lbs) napa cabbage
4 ozs bean-thread(cellophane) noodles
Meatball Ingredients:

1 lb lean ground pork
1/4 cup water chestnuts - finely minced
1 tbsp spring onions - white part only - minced
1 tbsp ginger - minced
1 tsp table salt or 2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp premium soya sauce
1 tbsp shaoxing wine
1/2 tsp white pepper

Oil for frying

1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp table salt/1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp premium soya sauce

Trim off the root end of the napa cabbage head and reserve. Quarter the leaves of napa cabbage lengthwise and then cut them again crosswise into thirds. Set aside.

To prepare the noodles:

Pour hot water over the bean-thread noodles in a bowl, and let them cook until they are soft, about 15 minutes. Keep the noodles in the water until ready to use, as they tend to dry out quickly.

To form the meatballs:

Combine the meatball ingredients and using your hands, gently mix together until well combined. Don't overmix, or the pork will become gummy
Using a 1/2 cup measure, loosely form the pork into 4 balls, Throw the ball from one palm to another with force, for a few times and place onto a greased baking sheet. Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until a bead of water dances on the surface and then evaporates. Pour in a thin film of oil to cover the bottom of skillet and swirl to coat.

Put in 2 meatballs, decrease heat and brown the meatballs on all sides. Repeat browning the rest of the meatballs.

Put the reserved root ends of the cabbage in the bottom of a large saucepan. Place the browned meatballs on top, and pour in the chicken broth and water.

Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer the mixture, uncovered, until it has cooked down slightly.
Add in the napa cabbage leaves and add in 1/2 tsp salt.. Cover the pot and continue to simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the cabbage is soft.

Drain the noodles, add to the saucepan with 2 tbsp premium soya sauce and stir to combine well.
Remove the saucepan from the heat.

To serve:

Arrange the meatballs on top of the cabbage and noodles. Serve hot.


Nathan said...

Thank you so much for this recipe I have always wanted to know how to prepare this dish.

Anonymous said...

This is a dish I like to make, would make quantities at a
time, round meat-balls and freeze the rest that I do not use
immediately, also like to make it from squid that is
quite delicious.

Anonymous said...

Napa Cabbage and ground pork really goes well together. I was first introduced to this dish by my MIL who is from Taiwan. This is a delicious one dish meal when eaten with steam rice.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe. I love Lion's Head.

Mao said...

hi lily
stumbled upon your blog while searching for pineapple tart recipes. i like this si zhi tou recipe too and should be trying it out for the CNY dinner, as well as your pineapple roll.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Lily, I first had these last year while we were in China. I now make them for my grandsons and they love them.

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