Lion’s Head Meatballs are an impressive Chinese dish usually reserved for special occasions… and before you ask, no, don’t worry – they don’t actually contain any lion at all.
The bizarre name comes from the meatballs’ wrinkly, bulbous aesthetic, which is said to resemble the head of Chinese lions.
Whether or not you see the resemblance, one thing that can’t be denied is that these meatballs are absolutely delicious.
In this dish, finely diced pork is combined with a variety of tasty ingredients to create hefty meatballs that are fried to perfection then braised in a dreamy umami-packed sauce. It does take some effort, but the results are spectacular, and perfectly suited for special occasions like Chinese New Year.
So, keep scrolling for our foolproof Lion’s Head Meatball recipe. I’d be Lion if I said I wasn’t excited to share this one…
Ingredients for Our Lion’s Head Meatballs Recipe
For the meatballs:
- 1kg pork belly, finely diced
- 1 large egg
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp sugar
- 1.5 tsp chicken bouillon powder
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1oz (30g) diced water chestnuts
- 1oz (30g) diced carrots
For the ginger-onion water:
- 1oz (30g) sliced ginger
- 1 oz (30g) sliced green onion
- 150mL water
- 3L oil (for deep frying)
- 1 tbsp oil (for pan frying)
- 1/2 oz (15g) sliced ginger
- 1/2 oz (15g) sliced green onion
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- OPTIONAL: 1 small chopped chili pepper
For the braising liquid:
- 2L water
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 1/3 tsp sugar
- 1/3 tsp chicken bouillon powder
For the garnish:
- 10.5oz (300g) watercress or spinach
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/3 tsp oil
Step by Step Instructions for Our Lion’s Head Meatballs Recipe
This isn’t a low effort dish by any means, but there’s a reason we save it for special occasions! Eager to give these delicious Lion’s Head Meatballs a try? Here are the step by step instructions!
To prep your ginger-onion water, place your julienned ginger and green onion into a small bowl with water. Using your hands, squeeze the ginger and green onion as you mix them with the water, then set aside.
Dice your pork belly into fine cubes and place into a large mixing bowl.
Add your egg, salt, sugar, chicken powder, cooking wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce and white pepper into the large mixing bowl, then mix with your hands clockwise.
Add your (strained) ginger-onion infused water and mix until well combined and sticky.
Add in your cornstarch and flour, then continue to mix.
Lastly, add in your water chestnuts and carrots, and mix thoroughly clockwise until combined.
Next, it’s time to shape those meatballs. Using your hands, shape your mixture into meatballs roughly the size of tennis balls. The mixture should be delicate and soft, but not fall apart. If you find it’s too wet, add a bit more flour.
PRO TIP: To prevent meatballs from sticking onto your plate as you shape them, either dust the plate with cornstarch/flour or cover it in plastic wrap.
Time to fry! Heat your pot of oil up to medium heat before before putting the meatballs in. Once they’re in, turn off the heat and let them fry until golden brown (about 5 minute). Work in batches of 4-5 until you’ve fried all your meatballs.
Heat up a wok to medium heat and then add a tbsp of neutral oil. Add your sliced ginger, sliced green onion, garlic and chopped chili. Fry for about one minute until fragrant, then add in all your braising liquid ingredients (2L water, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1/3 tsp salt, 1/3 tsp sugar, 1/3 tsp chicken bouillon powder).
Put your fried meatballs into this braising liquid and cook for 40 min, first letting the mixture boil then turning the heat down to low.
While your meatballs are braising, you can prepare your veggie garnish.
Bring a pot of water to boil, then add your greens along with your salt, sugar, and oil. Boil for about a minute until the veggies have softened, then put them on a plate.
When your meatballs have finished braising, arrange them nicely on the veggie plate, using your greens as a decorative garnish.
To create a tasty gravy to pour over your meatballs, strain and take about 175mL of your braising liquid. Add it into a saucepan at medium heat, and mix in a cornstarch slurry made up of 1/2 tsp cornstarch with 1 tbsp water. Bring the heat up until the sauce thickens, taking care to stir consistently.
Then, when your sauce is its desired consistency, turn off the heat. Give it a quick taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, then pour your sauce over the meatballs and serve.
NOTE: Papa G recommends adding a drizzle of sesame oil on top for a final bit of gloss!
We Hope You Enjoy Our Lion’s Head Meatballs Recipe!
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, or be sure to let us know if you’ve tested the recipe out. We’re always looking to improve our recipes and make sure they taste great for everyone.