Lion’s Head


2 cups chicken stock OR mushroom broth
1 1/4 pound ground pork
1 large bunch scallions finely chopped
1 large bunch garlic chives, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup chopped bok choy (the remainder)
¼ cup large dried shiitake mushrooms OR dried black mushrooms
1/8 cup minced bok choy (white parts only)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)
2 teaspoons black sesame oil PLUS extra for stir frying
2 inch knob fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 head Napa cabbage
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
canola oil


In a small pot, bring the broth to a boil then remove from heat. Soak mushrooms in the hot broth until soft. Remove the mushrooms from the pot. Slice and set aside, reserving the broth.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together pork, scallions,pepper, bok choy whites, half of the rice wine, sesame oil, half of the ginger and half of the soy sauce,. Form into 4 patties. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and cook the patties for about 5 minutes on each side.

Remove and reserve 4 large cabbage leaves. Place the cabbage (whole) lengthwise on the cutting board and slice thinly from point to base and pull apart the pieces to shred. Toss with bok choy and garlic chives.

Add some canola oil and a drop or two of the sesame oil to a large pot and heat, Stir-fry the mushrooms, half of the cabbage mixture, and the rest of the ginger, and the remaining rice wine and soy sauce until the cabbage begins to wilt, 1-2 minutes. Add remaining cabbage stir-fry until all of cabbage has begun to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the broth. Arrange the patties in a single layer and then cover with the reserved leaves. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, then remove the cover and cook an additional 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice.

My thoughts:

I’ve always loved lion’s head but it isn’t always on the menu. I decided to make my own version which is fairly close to what I’ve had out but with some of my own touches. Typically the meatballs have water chestnuts in them. Something about the texture of water chestnuts is really off putting to me, but I really wanted to maintain some crunch (for texture interest) so I finely diced some of the crunchy bottom of a stalk of bok choy and used that instead. Still a touch of crunch but without the icky texture. I also added garlic chives and the rest of the head of the bok choy to the cabbage. You could also choose to make smaller meatballs, I made four so it was easily divisible: one for each of us for dinner, then the other two were divided up for our lunches. It was really, realy good.


  1. I have actually never heard of this…but it looks so good! I’m bookmarking this one 🙂

  2. This looks really great. I also had never heard of this dish, but I definitely want to try it.

  3. I can’t wait to try this….heard of lion’s head but never had it.

  4. I’ve never heard of lion’s head either, but it sounds really good!

  5. I have never heard of this but the flavors sound delicious. Thanks for spreading the word.

  6. This is new to me…but sounds great. Where have you found this?

  7. I’m surprised that so many people seem unfamilar with this, it is a staple at a lot of Chinese restaurants and banquets I’ve been to.

  8. Hi, I tried making this, but may have browned the pork patties too long. Also, white pepper is listed and not used. I looked in “The Top One Hundred Chinese Dishes” and found a recipe, it includes noodles for the lion’s mane. I may try that, but it is supposed to steam for a couple of hours. It wasn’t as tasty as I had hoped, perhaps because of the missing white pepper, is it added to the pork?

  9. allthethingsyouare:
    My guess is that you over cooked the pork and dried it out, which would ruin the delicate flavor of dish.

    Did you use all of the other ingredients correctly? I do see pepper listed in the pork portion of the recipe.

    I found that steaming the meatballs for hours really added nothing to the recipe but a longer cooking time. As for the noodles, there is much debate over rather they are needed or original to the dish. I find that rice soaks up the juices and makes for a more satisfying meal.

    As I stated in the recipe, this is my version of the classic so of course versions and variations abound.

  10. So was I supposed to brown the pork patties for five minutes on each side and set aside? And then finish cooking later with the sauce? You might want to mention that. If I try it again, I will do that. It seems like a good recipe, but probably would do better as meatballs than patties.

  11. allthings:
    Well, the directions do say to cook the patties for 5 minutes on each side in the skillet. At that point they will be just about done all the way through, but of course they will continue to cook some in the hot vegetables. Any food, when placed over a flame will cook.

    I am not sure what part of that is confusing or why someone would cook them for longer in the skillet when there are specific times mentioned. I think the directions are already super easy (and much, much easier than any other lion’s head recipe out there) but I can break it down even further for you:

    You cook the patties for 5 minutes on each side. The next step is the brief stir fry. You can either be stir frying at the same time as the patties are browning the whole stir fry part (including chopping the cabbage) takes about 8-10 minutes and the patties don’t need any attention beyond the one flip. If you can’t handle doing two things at one time stir fry the veggies after the patties have cooked for 5 minutes on each side. Either way, the patties are still cooked for the same amount of time in the skillet.

    I also don’t think meatballs (unless you made very tiny ones) would be easier at all, they have a longer cooking time, a denser middle and are harder to tell when they have cooked through.