Lion’s Head Casserole is a traditional Chinese dish that is pure comfort food. I fondly remember this dish from my childhood. My namesake Auntie Jeannette made it on special occasions. Auntie Jeanette was a good cook and always welcomed people into her home. For a number of years, she and Uncle Dick hosted a small church group in their home. We first met in their living room, and then moved to their basement when the gathering grew too big. After service, we would join in a buffet lunch in their dining room. I loved the intimacy of those gatherings.
I made this Lion’s Head Casserole for my dad’s 90th birthday last year, and again, recently, for a family from our church. Both my dad and our family friend were so appreciative that I made them this dish.
This is Chinese comfort food at its best.
How To Make Lion’s Head Casserole
Lion’s Head Casserole is not hard to make. It just takes some time to braise until the napa cabbage is meltingly soft and the meatballs are light and tender. Perhaps, that is why it is a special occasion dish.
First, ground pork is seasoned with ginger and scallion. Pork is the traditional choice of meat. You can try substituting turkey although it may result in a drier meatball.
The key to the meatballs in this dish is to add some water and mix it until a ball forms. The meat mixture will be slightly “sticky.”
The meat is then formed into large meatballs.
Next, the meatballs are browned on all sides.
Then, napa cabbage is cooked slightly before the meatballs are placed on top to braise at low heat for an hour. During this time, the meatballs become very tender, and the napa cabbage soaks up lots of delicious flavor.
Can you see the Lion’s Head? The napa cabbage is the mane of the lion.
If you’re interested in authentic Chinese cooking, give this recipe a try. You won’t find this in your typical Chinese restaurant.
Lion's Head Casserole
Lion's Head Meatballs
- 1.3 pounds ground pork
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 scallion minced
- 2 teaspoons ginger minced
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 4 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 4.5 tablespoons oil
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 pound napa cabbage cut into 2" pieces
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
Lion's Head Meatballs
In a large bowl, mix together pork, egg, cornstarch, scallion, ginger, wine, sugar, salt and pepper. Add 4 tablespoons water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix in the same direction until the mixture forms a ball and sticks together.
Form into 8 meatballs.
Stir together Coating Mixture ingredients in a small bowl. Brush the meatballs all over with Coating Mixture.
Cooking Lion's Head Meatballs
Heat 4 tablespoons oil in wok or large pan. Brown meatballs on all sides. You may have to do this in batches. Remove meatballs and set aside. Clean wok.
Heat remaining oil in clean wok. Add garlic and stir fry a few seconds. Add napa cabbage pieces and saute 2 minutes until just softened. Place meatballs on top of napa cabbage. Pour in chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered for one hour.
Mix together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Stir into sauce until slightly thickened.
This dish reheats well if you choose to make it ahead.