Chinese Lion’s Head Pork Meatballs (狮子头)

4.87 from 30 votes
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A family pork meatball recipe that uses breadcrumbs, water chestnuts, and aromatics to make super light, fluffy and juicy meatballs that are bursting with flavor.

Chinese lion's head meatballs

Chinese pork meatballs are also called lion’s head (狮子头, shi zi tou). They feature tender, moist, and light meatballs with a savory taste. This dish is a staple food for my family, because it’s quite easy to cook in big batches and is so comforting to enjoy any time. Eating the savory meatballs with rice is as addictive as eating a burger. Juicy and flavorful meat and starch are the best combo in the world.

You’ll find quite a few versions of Lion’s Head in China. One popular rendition in northern China is braised meatballs. The cooking method for those is quite close to the one in this recipe. But instead of steaming, those meatballs are braised in a soy-sauce-based liquid after browning. Another type is meatballs cooked in chicken broth. They’re usually served by themselves instead of over rice.

Chinese pork meatballs

Today I’ll introduce a third type – steamed lion’s head. This recipe was passed down from my grandma. She used to make a huge batch of these every two weeks. After cooking them, she’d reserve a small amount to serve to guests who might be visiting her house. She would freeze the rest and give them away to family members, including my parents. These meatballs are my favorite and are even better than the ones from the restaurant. They are extremely fluffy and moist and are as tender as the pork in a slow-cooked Bolognese sauce.

Chinese lion's head meatballs close-up

How to make pork meatballs extra light

The secrets to creating super fluffy meatballs are:

  • Mix water into the meat to make a very tender patty
  • Add plenty of breadcrumbs
  • Add plenty of water chestnuts

Chinese pork meatballs prep steps

The truth is, you will need to add so many breadcrumbs and chestnuts, that the size of the patty doubles. The water chestnuts add a really refreshing and crisp mouthfeel, so the meatballs will taste extra light.

My mom once told me, making the meatballs tender was not the original intention of adding so many other ingredients to the pork. It’s because pork was in short supply when she was a kid, so her parents needed to find a way to make these meatballs more filling with limited ingredients. Thus, the moist and tender texture of the meatballs was just a nice side effect of living poor. Even now, my family still enjoys cooking with this recipe. It tastes like home.

Cooking method

The meatballs are shaped, browned in a frying pan, and then steamed.

Once you shaped the meatballs, you need to brown them to create the heavenly crust and seal the juicy. It also helps the meatballs to keep their shapes. Once you steam the meatballs, a lot of fat is rendered out. The finished meatballs will end up flavorful and less greasy. The recipe may seem a bit time consuming, but it’s actually very easy to prepare. The active cooking time in the kitchen is only 30 minutes.

Chinese pork meatballs cooking step-by-step

The meatballs are one of my favorite lunch items, too. They freeze well and taste as great after reheating. Stuff one of these into your lunchbox with steamed rice and some greens, and you’ll make all of your colleagues jealous when you heat it up in the office microwave.

You can also serve the meatballs for dinner as a main, pairing it with fast and easy sides such as cucumber salad, okra stir-fry, or spinach salad.

Chinese pork meatballs close-up

More delicious pork recipes

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Chinese pork meatballs close-up

Chinese Lion’s Head Pork Meatballs (狮子头)

4.87 from 30 votes
Enjoy the classic Chinese pork meatballs in a healthier way, without compromising on flavor.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings: 10 big meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (500 grams) ground pork (lean fat ratio 7:3)
  • 4 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or Japanese sake)
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger , grated
  • 1/2 cup scallion , minced (or green onion)
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 12 to 15 water chestnuts , finely chopped (generate about 1 cup)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (100 grams) panko (Japanese style breadcrumb)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil)

Instructions

Prepare the meatballs

  • Add ground pork into a large bowl. Add 4 tablespoons water. Mix well with a spatula until water is fully incorporated.
  • Add Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, salt, sugar, grated ginger, cornstarch, and scallion. Mix well.
  • Add chestnuts and eggs. Mix a few times.
  • Add panko. Mix well. Add sesame oil, mix until it forms a soft paste.
  • Heat peanut oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until warm.
  • Use bare hands to scoop about 1/3 cup of the paste and shape it into a meatball (*see footnote 1). The meatball should be a bit runny, barely able to hold its shape (so the finished meatballs will be tender and juicy). If the meatballs cannot hold their shape, add a bit more panko and mix again. If the meatballs are still a bit tough, blend in more water and mix well, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the paste turns soft.

Cook the meatballs

  • Carefully place 3 to 4 meatballs in the skillet and make sure to leave enough space to flip them. When the bottom side is just set, carefully roll the ball with a spatula to cook the other sides. Continue to do this until all sides are set and browned (*see footnote 2). Transfer to a plate. Continue to brown the rest of the meatballs.
  • Add water to a steamer and place the plate of meatballs on the steaming rack. (*see footnote 3)
  • Heat the steamer over medium high heat, covered, until the water begins to boil. Turn to medium heat. Cook covered until the meatballs are cooked through, in 40 minutes.
  • Cook the second batch by using the same method. After cooking the first batch, check the water level and add more if it runs too low.
  • Serve warm over steamed rice as a main.

Storage and reheat

  • Store the meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. After steaming, the meatballs will render some fat and liquid. Drizzle it on the meatballs before storage, to keep the them tender and moist.
  • The best way to reheat the meatballs is by steaming, the same method used to cook them. The meatballs will be heat up evenly and still be moist inside.
  • Alternatively, you can use the microwave. Make sure the container has some liquid (leftover grease or 1 teaspoon water) inside. Please a loose lid on top and heat it up in the microwave.

Notes

  1. This is a bit messy, but I find using bare hands to shape the meatballs is easier than doing so when wearing plastic gloves.
  2. It can be difficult to keep the meatballs in shape, because the meat mixture is quite runny. You need to handle them gently, so the balls won’t break apart. You can cook the top and bottom sides first, like cooking a very thick burger patty. Then you can use two spatulas to let the meatball stand, to cook the edges. The meatballs won’t look very pretty, but will still taste great.
  3. Unless you are using a very big pot, you’ll probably need to cook the meatballs in two batches. It’s fine to stack the meatballs.

Nutrition

Serving: 121g, Calories: 212kcal, Carbohydrates: 21.8g, Protein: 16.7g, Fat: 6.2g, Saturated Fat: 1.4g, Cholesterol: 74mg, Sodium: 1141mg, Potassium: 362mg, Fiber: 0.7g, Sugar: 2.9g, Vitamin A: 100IU, Vitamin C: 11.6mg, Calcium: 40mg, Iron: 1.8mg
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Chinese Lion’s Head Pork Meatballs | A family pork meatball recipe that uses breadcrumbs, water chestnuts, and aromatics to make super light, fluffy and juicy meatballs that are bursting with flavor. 

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Marissa | Pinch and Swirl says:

    5 stars
    Wow! These look amazing…I have some ground pork in the freezer and this is what I’m going to do with it!

  2. Shihoko says:

    Hi Maggie, I will try this recipe! I love Chinese and Asian food as I am from Japan living in Brisbane, Australia. I have been reading Nagi’s food bloggers central and I have just learnt how to hide long pinterest photos. Thank you. Shihoko

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Shihoko, thanks for stopping by! I have been living in Japan for two years and I LOVE Japanese food! Just followed back, and looking forward to reading more delicious Japanese recipes 🙂

  3. Lokness @ The Missing Lokness says:

    These lion’s head looks amazingly delicious! It is a great idea to do a steam version. Much healthier! I will need a big bowl of rice to go along with them. Thank you for sharing your grandma’s recipe! The family’s recipes are the best treasure. They have the comforting flavors that we are always looking for and going back to. I got to try this for sure!

  4. Mary C says:

    5 stars
    The Shaoxing wine is all I’m missing, and the big Spec’s on mopac (omg you’re moving to Austin! So am I! We just signed everything for our very first house, so no more boonyland living for a while, though finding just the right things may still rely on the almighty Amazon sometimes) might be able to order me some if they don’t have it stocked already.
    TheHubs loves pork so this should please everybody.

    • Maggie says:

      Congratulations for you new house Mary! Moving is so exhausting, but it’s definitely rewarding after everything’s settled 🙂
      I rely on Amazon for lots of shopping too. However, I don’t really recommend you to purchase the Shaoxing wine there. I remember it contains salt. The dish will turn up very salty if you’re not careful. If you have moved, check out H.E.B, WholeFoods or any liquor store for Japanese sake (rice wine). The flavor is a bit different from Shaoxing wine, but it’s a great alternative in Chinese cooking. Plus, you can drink it too 😉

      • Mary C says:

        It is! All of those things.
        Also, very good to know. Spec’s ( liquor store in Austin ) claims to have some of the wine already, but I will check it to be sure it’s not mostly salt water. That I could use sake instead is excellent to know! Sake is much easier to come by, but I want to try the intended flavor first =)

      • Maggie says:

        The tricky part is, Shaoxing wine is drinkable, but the cheap ones are mostly used for cooking. I’ve checked the big Asian market in Austin, and unfortunately it’s the salty one. I didn’t check Spec’s yet, but I’m suspect the Shaoxing wine is not delicious enough for a liquor store. Anyhow, do let me know if you find Shaoxing wine! So I won’t need to drive to Houston to get it every time 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    I love the name of these meatballs. I”m always looking for new recipes and your sounds so flavorful I have to give this a try.

  6. Susan says:

    These meatballs sound wonderful. And I’m delighted to know that your visa was approved, and I hope your move to Austin goes smoothly.

    • Maggie says:

      Thanks Susan! I’m very happy about the visa too. I will keep you updated in my newsletter after the moving. Have a great week 🙂

  7. Mira says:

    5 stars
    These sound and look very delicious Maggie! I’ll make them, whenever I find some water chestnuts 🙂

  8. Marlene says:

    I’d love to make these, Maggie, but I don’t cook wiht pork. What other ground meat would you substitute, turkey, maybe? Also, thanks for showing Nagi how to hide collage pins. That’s how I discovered your great blog, too.

    • Maggie says:

      Thanks for stopping by Marlene! I haven’t tried to use other ground meat with this recipe yet. I’m afraid turkey ground meat is too lean to create a tender texture by using this one. I’d like to try it out in my kitchen and report back how the dish turns out 🙂

      • Katie says:

        5 stars
        Hello, I know this is a thread from a few years ago but here’s my experience in case people still have the same question. I made them with ground turkey and I’m not sure how true to the recipe they were but they were delicious! I followed pretty much everything else except I used white vermouth instead of the cooking sake. I just happened upon this blog and I’m so glad I did! Thank you!

      • Maggie says:

        Hi Katie, thanks so much for letting me know that the recipe works with ground turkey as well! I’m pretty sure those turkey meatballs you made were delicious 🙂 I will try it again the next time. We are trying to lose some weight lately, so we’d always prefer leaner meat.
        I’m happy that you found my blog as well! Have a great week ahead 🙂

  9. Nancy | Plus Ate Six says:

    5 stars
    These are my favourite – and your recipe sounds exactly like the ones I order. Meltingly soft meatballs that somehow hold their shape. Yummo!

  10. Bam's Kitchen says:

    5 stars
    Recipes passed on from grandma’s are always the best! Your Lions head meatballs look so tender and delicious. I especially like the added water chestnuts, yum! This is a great meal to cook once and eat twice as freezing is a really good idea. sharing, Pinning, sending smoke signals…Take Care, BAM

  11. Chi @twopickypigs says:

    5 stars
    Maggie, I made this last weekend and it was AMAZING !!!! *insert clapping sound* I was on a low carb diet so I skipped the corn starch and sugar, but it was still really yummy. This recipe rocks 😀

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Chi, I’m so glad you cooked my recipe! 🙂 And it’s great to know that skipping the cornstarch and sugar is fine. I will try it out myself next time. Thanks for leaving a feedback. Have a lovely day 🙂

  12. Marlene says:

    Hi, Maggie, I’m going to try these tomorrow using ground beef and ground veal, 50-50,, and I’ll report back. I was wondering if you’d ever tried browning them in the oven on broil or at 450 F, perhaps, instead of doing them on the stovetop. I was thinking the meatballs might hold together more easily for the transfer stage.

  13. Marlene says:

    Reporting back, Maggie: I made them with a 50-50 mix of ground beef and veal, using two eggs and ginger-infused dry sherry instead of the Shaoxing wine. I made them smaller, using about 1/4 cup of he meat mixture or less, for 16 meatballs. Although they were a bit time-consuming, the results were outstanding. My husband, whose nickname is Mr. Fussy, said this was definitely a recipe to make again. I served them with sesame noodles. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Marlene, thanks so much for keeping me updated on the cooking! The beef meatballs idea sounds great! I love cooking with beef too and I can’t wait to try out your idea 🙂
      Did you brown the meatballs on stovetop or in the oven? Most of traditional Chinese cooking does not use oven since average family doesn’t have it in the kitchen. But I do think it should work for this recipe. It’s probably possible to cook the meatballs in the oven all the way through, not just the browning part (at a lower temperature of course). I’d love to do some experiments on this 🙂
      So glad you and your husband love this dish. Have a great week ahead!

  14. Marlene says:

    I browned them on the stove as the recipe says. And thank you for including storing and reheating directions. We had them again tonight and they steamed perfectly. Next time I’ll make more because they freeze so well. And I will see if the right kind of ground turkey might work..

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Marlene, thanks for leaving a comment and let me know! Yes they freeze very well. That’s why I always make a big batch and save them for later. I believe ground turkey will work if you get the one that contains 15% fat. I tried it the other day with a slightly different recipe, the meatballs turned out very tender and nice.

  15. Cathleen says:

    5 stars
    OMGoodness!!! It’s delicious, tender and moist! I added napa cabbage on the bottom of the meatballs before steaming it. Served it with steamed rice!!! YUMMIE!!!

    Thanks for sharing!!!!!!

    • Maggie says:

      So glad to hear you cooked many of my dishes and enjoyed the result. You just made my day Cathleen!
      The meatball recipes is a family recipe that was handed down from my grandma. I’m so glad the dish can be shared and enjoyed with people around the world 🙂

  16. Stephen says:

    I’m only able to find the salty Shaoxing cooking wine variety. I plan on reducing the light soy sauce by a teaspoon and a 1/2 to balance the salt out. Should I omit more light soy? Can’t wait to make these

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Stephen, I never used the salty Shaoxing wine, so it’s really difficult for me to tell. I think you can try slightly reduce soy sauce. I won’t suggest omitting it because it adds nice flavor. Even if the meatballs turn out a bit salty, you can always serve them with a bit more rice.
      Happy cooking!

  17. Nebojsa says:

    Hi Maggie! Yours recipes are excellent. Can you suggest substitutes for water chestnuts?

    • Maggie says:

      There is no perfect substitutes because water chestnuts add a nice crispy texture that make the meatballs light. I’d suggest diced white onions if you don’t have water chestnuts. They do turn soft after cooking. The result won’t be the same, but should still be tasty.
      Happy cooking!

  18. Anita says:

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie, I came across your blog while searching for meatball recipe. Yours look very delicious, will try it soon. Do you have any recipe on pairing the meatball with some kind of sauce?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Anita, sorry I do not have a sauce recipe that goes with this dish. We usually season the meatballs with plenty of spices so they will be flavorful enough to serve by themselves.
      If you’d like to serve it with sauce, I think a yogurt based sauce (such as tzatziki) should go these meatballs.

      • Anita says:

        Thank you for the reply Maggie! Yogurt is such a great idea 😀

  19. Cyn says:

    eep… just tried the recipe and the flavor was good but it’s wayyyyy too salty for my taste. even paired with rice and veggies still salty I would cut the salt by 1/3 next time and just keep the soy. four tablespoons of soy is already pretty sodium heavy.

    • Maggie says:

      I’m sorry to hear it! Did you use a salted Shaoxing wine? This recipe uses a lot of wine and it might cause the problem (I was using a Shaoxing wine that does not contain salt). Also, there is only 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce. It is less powerful than light soy sauce. So if you’re using 4 tablespoons, it will increase the salt level. Anyhow, I hope they will turn out tastier the next time.

  20. Melissa Higgins says:

    Just tried this recipe and oh my goodness! So flavoursome, delicious and moist just as you described. We also just as an accidental happinstance – tried them with tzaziki and they tasted amazing.

    Thanks for a wonderful and authentic recipe – I love cooking outside of my cultural upbringing and these are delicious, light, fluffy and a bright addition to our ’round the world’ attitude to food x

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Melissa, I’m so glad to hear the recipe worked out well! And yes, I believe the tzaziki sauce will go very well with these meatballs. It is great that you’d like to venture out of your comfort zone and challenge new dishes! I’m happy to share the recipes from my culture with you 🙂
      Have a great day!

  21. Kathryn says:

    Hello
    Can I cook it in an oven instead of skillet, its oily and messy? Thank you for the recipe.
    Kathryn

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Kathryn, I’ve never tried to make these meatballs in the oven but I think it should work. The meat patty in this recipe is quite tender. The meatballs won’t stay in perfect shape but it won’t affect the taste.
      Happy cooking and hope the dish will turn out great 🙂

      • Kathryt then says:

        Thank you Maggie. I finally bought water chestnuts this morning, ready to make it today.

      • Maggie says:

        Happy cooking and let me know how the dish turns out 🙂

  22. Amanda says:

    Oh wow! Maggie! This was absolutely mouth-watering. I missed the sesame oil, overbrowned the balls and had to braise them quickly with cabbage cos of time constraints. But, just WOW! I can’t wait for the weekend to make it the way you did. Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Amanda, I’m so glad to hear you tried my recipe and enjoyed the dish! Braising these meatballs totally make sense and I believe they turned out delicious.
      I can’t wait to hear your feedback on the steamed version!
      Happy cooking and hope you have a great week ahead 🙂

  23. Pamela says:

    Maggie, the Lion’s Head Meatballs that I first learned how to make some 40 years ago were about 70% ground pork and 30% crabmeat with crab coral added as well. And ginger, etc etc. I am wondering, is this a regular version of this dish? Have you ever heard of Lion’s Head Meatballs made with crab?? Perhaps it is a version from a seaside area?? Anyway, I highly recommend this version. Using homemade chicken broth and simmering the Meatballs for about 30 minutes makes a wonderful broth full ofmpork and crab goodness.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Pamela, I think I know the version you mentioned. They are light covered meatballs that are braised in chicken stock. I think it is from Hangzhou or one of these adjacent cities of Shanghai. I’ve tried them in restaurants and really enjoyed them. I’d say it’s one of the regular versions of lion’s head in southern China. Mine is pure northern style 🙂

      • Pamela says:

        I love northern too! Good to know! I love Lion’s Head Meatballs! I will try this.

      • Maggie says:

        Awesome! Happy cooking and let me know how the dish turns out 🙂

  24. Krystal Castillo says:

    Thank you!

    • Ashley says:

      Hi Maggie! This recipe sounds amazing but I don’t have a steamer. Do you have any ideas on the process of braising the meatballs in soy sauce?

  25. Heide Briggs says:

    Amazing recipe Maggie! Thank you so much for sharing your family’s tradition with us. I made these for dinner tonight and I couldn’t be more pleased. I subbed Sherry for the Saki (I live in the middle of nowhereville) and they were still great. Such a tender, moist meatball – I’ll be making these again and again! Can’t wait to share this with friends!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Heide, thanks so much for taking time and leaving a comment! And I’m so glad to hear the recipe worked for you 🙂 Yes it’s totally OK to use saki to replace the sherry. We always make a big batch and freeze the rest. Their texture holds up well. I hope your friends will love these meatballs too 🙂

  26. Richard Hong says:

    3 stars
    I don’t think it should use so much salt. 3 tsp of salt for 1 pound of pork is too much.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Richard, this dish is on the salty side because we usually serve it with rice. Unlike western style meatballs, we do not serve it with any sauce, so the meatballs have to be a bit salty so it tastes just right with the rice. Plus the water chestnuts and breadcrumbs will add quite a bit volume. That’s being said, I think you can reduce the salt to 2 teaspoons without any problem.
      I hope you can give the recipe a try some time. It’s really good 🙂

  27. Shellie says:

    hello, I’m throwing a Chinese new year party for 8 friends. Should I double this recipe?
    Also, I don’t have a steamer, but I like the idea of steaming because I want them to stay tender and moist.
    What do you recommend I do, try or buy.

    • Katherine says:

      These meatballs were absolutely delicious. I served them with a dipping sauce of Chinese vinegar mixed with some soy sauce, green onions, grated ginger and a little sugar. Thank you Maggie.

  28. Giselle says:

    I made your version of Lion’s Head for my family’s Chinese New Year dinner last night and it was very good. The meat mixture was quite liquidy, as you describe in the recipe, so I used a one-third cup measure to drop mounds of meat into the hot oil in my pan. This “technique” worked beautifully. Once the mounds began to brown, it was easy to turn them over to brown all sides and they held together. The meatballs were fluffy and delicious!

  29. Giselle says:

    One more thing (and to answer Shellie’s question): using a one-third cup measure, this recipe made 13 meatballs.

  30. Ke says:

    How do you know when the meatballs are cooked through? I’ve been steaming them for a while now (around 40 mins) but the meat still looks a bit pinkish/translucent.

  31. Zhen says:

    Love your recipes! I’m going to give this lion’s head recipe a try today! Thank you for sharing all these wonderful recipes with us.

  32. zhen says:

    So the water chestnuts need to be fresh or canned?

    • Thomas says:

      Hi Zhen – Maggie’s husband here. We made these with canned (drained) water chestnuts. They should also be great with fresh ones, if you’re lucky enough to have access to them 🙂 Good luck and happy cooking!

  33. Melanie K says:

    AMAZING!! These were So full of flavor and even the pick kids loved them! Thanks so much for sharing your grandmas recipe ?

  34. David says:

    5 stars
    I made these last night, froze the majority in 4 ball plastic packs. How do I reheat these, should I steam them over bok choy for 40 minutes straight from frozen, or do I have to thaw them first? Thanks.

    • Effie says:

      I steamed from frozen and they turned out great!

  35. Effie says:

    5 stars
    These are AMAZING fresh and almost as amazing after freezing. Didn’t have dark soy sauce so just used double regular — tasted great even if they were a little less pretty. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  36. Wesley Ru says:

    5 stars
    My Mom used to make these. Thank you for this recipe. Great memories and the dish came out perfect.

  37. Wenbo Bai says:

    Hi Maggie! I was wondering if I could use an Instant Pot to steam the meatballs, and for how long you’d recommend steaming for. Thank you! I’ve been using recipes for ages and I’m so excited to try these 狮子头 this week!

    • Maggie says:

      I’ve never used Instant Pot to steam these but I think it should totally work. With high pressure, you should able to get them down in 20 to 25 minutes.

  38. elizabeth says:

    These look delicious and I like the steaming method vs. frying. Will these hold up in a broth?
    Thank you

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Elizabeth, I’ve never tried cooking them in a broth but I think it should work as long as you brown them well, and don’t stir too much when adding to the broth.

  39. Amie says:

    Hi Maggie, I’ve made these twice now and they’re great! I’ve been looking at the pearl rice meatballs, too – do you think I could use this filling, roll it in soaked glutinous rice, and steam to cook? Or would it fall apart because it wasn’t browned first? LOVE YOUR RECIPES. Thanks!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Amie, I’m glad to hear you like the recipe!
      Re your question – I’ve never tried to steam these meatballs without browning but I imagine it might collapse or fall apart because the mixture is quite runny. The pearl rice meatball recipe uses a much firm mixture so you can actually roll the meatballs with rice.

  40. Susan says:

    Made these again tonight for the second time. It’s one of my favorite recipes… so far. Looking forward to trying new and more!Thank you for this!

  41. Viola Fleming says:

    The recipe was exactly what I was looking for. I DID have to be careful but they turned out well and very yummy. I’ll be making this recipe again and again.

  42. Jan erasmus says:

    5 stars
    Excellent, best I have ever tasted

  43. John Henry says:

    5 stars
    This is by far the best recipe for 狮子头 that I have found online! the meatballs are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, they are perfect!

  44. Winnie says:

    Your recipe sounds amazing Maggie! What can I use to substitute water chestnut? Thanks!

  45. Anne says:

    It’s not often I follow a recipe as written. But this one was so crazy, I knew I had to on first foray. I always grind my own meat. Used pork loin – rib end. My hobby is making good food that tastes good. This recipe is stupid good! I was concerned with no garlic. Just no need for it. Crazy I know! I cut salt to a third. Otherwise all as instructed. Brilliant! Next time I will make meatballs half size and steam half as long. So so Good!

  46. Ed says:

    5 stars
    Thanks! These turned out really good but a tad sweet, maybe from the garlic, caramelization – going to remove the sugar next time.

  47. Alina says:

    5 stars
    All your recipes that I’ve made to date are super easy to follow and every dish turns out amazing. For this one, I didn’t have water chestnuts and no way of getting any, so I substituted with a firm apple, in the same quantity. Although the apple softened completely during the steaming process so that there was no crunch as it would have been with water chestnuts, the entire family LOVED them. Lion’s Head was the first dish I had upon landing in Beijing for the very first time back in 2011, and it’s still my favorite. Miss Beijing, miss the hutongs, but at least I have a way of making my favorite dishes now. Thank you!

  48. Karen says:

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie,

    Chose your recipe because it is steamed, not deep fried. Incredible! So soft like a marshmallow!

    I live in a city with only three Chinese restaurants, no Shanghainese restaurants. We used to always order this whenever at a Shanghainese restaurants before moving. My husband is Shanghainese and he said this was the softest meatball ever!

    Many thanks and keep it up 🙂

  49. MY says:

    They tasted awesome, soft and juicy! Aside from them being a tad on the salty side for our liking, they reminded us of the signature Ding Tai Fung xiao long bao meat filling. 5 stars for sure.

  50. JLK says:

    5 stars
    I love pork meatballs. I made some tweaks ( we are chefs right?) . I don’t have the wine but used Mirin and decided to back out the Table salt to compensate. I also cooked on the stove to light brown all sides and decided to use my simmer ring to lower the heat and added a little water in the pan to “steam” the meatballs. Love the Lions head meatball. I really enjoy your weekly email blogs and the website is so organized and beautifully photographed.

  51. Michelle Li says:

    5 stars
    Made these along with some sautéed veggies. These meatballs were absolutely marvelous, packed with flavor and a delectable texture. The aroma as these cooked was enchanting. It took a little work to get the method down (my first time working with this consistency, but once I got the hang of it the shape was better – I think I over crowded the pan a bit in the beginning and maybe didn’t have the right amount of pressure when forming the first two or three – was fine as the ended up being perfect for chef’s tasting – my advice is to keep going and you’ll get the hang of it as I did). These ended up being delicious and I was sad when there weren’t any leftover for lunch the next day. I can’t wait to make them again.

    • Maggie says:

      Thanks for leaving a positive review and sharing your cooking experience 🙂
      This is my grandma’s recipe and she was so good at shaping the super soft meatballs. My version is actually slightly harder than hers but I just can’t do as well 😛 Anyhow, so glad to hear you like the recipe. These meatballs freeze very well so you can make a bigger batch and save for later.

  52. Cecilia says:

    5 stars
    This was delicious! I made it for a group so doubled everything. It was honestly a big pain to fry then steam, but the flavor overall was definitely worth it. Mine didn’t end up like meatballs, more like wide meat patties, but so tender! Next time I will cut back on the salt and Shaoxing wine. I thought those were a bit too dominate. Thank you for sharing this old-school recipe!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Cecilia, I’m glad to hear you like the recipe! It’s one of my family’s favorites. Yeah the patty is very tender and it’s hard to shape it into a meatball shape. My grandma actually adds more liquid to it and somehow able to fry it well. Hers meatballs always came out SO TENDER. I cannot deal with soft patty so skillful so I’ve reduced some liquid, but yeah, the frying is quite challenging.

  53. Jesse Rabinowitz says:

    5 stars
    Maggie, these were as wonderful as their name suggests, and as all of your other recipes. Truly savory delights. My wife had asked if there would be any sauce, what with it being served over rice, so I used your meatball recipe, and supplemented it with napa cabbage stir-fried in the pan I’d browned the meatballs in, then steamed the meatballs over a bed of the stir-fried cabbage (Virginia Lee and Craig Claiborne’s The Chinese Cookbook, was my intro to Chinese cooking in the 1970s and they serve it over cabbage). So very incredible!!!!

  54. Filo says:

    5 stars
    Just fabulous, like eating little clouds.

  55. Ayesha says:

    5 stars
    Wow tried these today and they were amazing. I added some green chillies into the mix too and made some home made soya and chilli dip on the side. Yummy

  56. Ed says:

    5 stars
    These are really good! Thanks for sharing and happy new year!

  57. Patty says:

    Made these last night and they were delicious! I may not have put enough bread crumbs so I had more like meatball pyramids – but they were super soft and my three kids plus husband loved them. Thank you for the recipe!!

  58. Lexy says:

    5 stars
    Super easy and tasty!! Substituted with ground turkey (all I had) , even with the lean meat it was so good! Definitely will make again!

  59. Steph says:

    5 stars
    These were so tasty! We skipped the frying step and they did puff up in the steamer and develop craggily edges rather smooth round meatballs, but we didn’t mind that at all! The texture was incredible, the meatballs were super juicy, and the flavour was so so good. I’ll be surprised if my family doesn’t ask for these again this week.

  60. Maria says:

    Hi! I would love to try this recipe but unfortunately I only have the salted shaoxing wine. I was wondering if you have advice on what to cut back on to reduce the saltiness. I didn’t want to have to buy an unsalted bottle since I’d much rather finish the one I have first instead of tossing it.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I think you should reduce the salt to 1 teaspoon to balance it out. (This dish is slightly heavily seasoned because you don’t need a sauce and it’s usually served over rice)

      • Maria says:

        Whoops! I just saw your response. I apologize for submitting the question again. Thank you! I will give this a try for sure.

  61. Maria says:

    Hi Maggie! I would love to try this recipe and I have all the ingredients. The only issue is I only have salted ShaoXing Wine. Would you be able to suggest how to alter the soysauce/wine ratio to accommodate for this? It sounds so good and I am eager to try it. I

    • Maria says:

      5 stars
      Hi Maggie, just letting you know what a success these meatballs were! Tender, juicy, and savory! Definitely followed your advice on the salt since I used salted shaoxing wine and it was perfect. Looking forward to trying out your other recipes.

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