Easy Oriental part 3. Open your mind with Lion’s Head Meatballs.

Lion's Head Meatballs (12 of 13)The inspiration for this post in my mini series came when I overheard a conversation last week between two chaps in a Dun Laoghaire bar. Some snippets of their collective Chinese cookery wisdom; “They make it tasty by adding MSG. That stuff is really bad for you, full of lard.” “It makes you real hungry”. “There’s always loads of salt in the curry.” “The one in XXXX got closed down for serving seagull.” So went the assassination of the centuries old culinary traditions of one point four billion people. 

It’s a bit depressing when we think this way. Particularly when there are so many simple dishes of Chinese origin. Dishes that are both easy to cook and are good for you. My next mind opening recipe in the series is Lion’s Head Meatballs.

Lion's Head Meatballs (1 of 13)

The lion’s head name comes from the idea that the bok choi looks like a mane on the meatball lions head. Or so they say…

The ingredients list runs as follows;

  • 5 pork chops
  • 6 heads of bok choi
  • 1 pint of chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger
  • 3 or 4 spring onions
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour
  • a splash or two of soy sauce
  • a splash of rice wine or sherry, if you have any left over from that funeral.
  • salt and pepper to taste

First, mince the pork chops. If you don’t have a mincer, get a big knife and chop the meat up very small. Keep chopping until you have a coarse mince and  muscular arms.

Luckily, I have a mincer and only chopped the meat to fit it down the feeding tube.

Luckily, I have a mincer and only chopped the meat to fit it down the feeding tube.

The mince needs to be about this coarse.

The mince needs to be about this coarse.

Be sure to mince the fat as well as the lean. Then add the garlic, ginger chopped spring onions, cornflour rice wine and soy sauce.

Let the mixer do the work here.

Let the mixer do the work here.

While the meatball mixture is mixing,  chop the bok choi.

A gratuitous bok choi chopping shot if ever there was one.

A gratuitous bok choi chopping shot if ever there was one.

Bok choi or pak choi is a beautiful delicate vegetable.

Bok choi or pak choi is a beautiful delicate vegetable.

Next, mould the meat mixture into meatballs. Mine are a little bigger than a golf ball.

I got eleven out of the mixture. A difficult number to photograph. So, here's nine.

I got eleven out of the mixture. A difficult number to photograph. So, here’s nine.

Fry these off over a medium heat until they are brown on most sides.

Lovely aromas start to arise as they cook.

Lovely aromas start to arise as they cook.

In a different (bigger) pan, add the chicken stock. Transfer the (partially) cooked meatballs and bring to a gentle simmer.

The meatballs get to cook through in the stock.

The meatballs get to cook through in the stock.

Cook for ten minutes or so before adding the bok choi.

Stack it up and sit the lid on top. It will reduce down.

Stack it up and sit the lid on top. It will reduce down.

When the bok choi has wilted, serve this dish with some rice. The rice absorbs the stock and the whole affair makes for a wonderful autumn dish. Lion's Head Meatballs (13 of 13)

It’s about as far away from the standard Irish Chinese takeaway as Dublin is from Beijing (about 5,000 miles as the very tired seagull flies). It’s easy, inexpensive and delicious. Mind you, it’s not as easy as calling the Jade Palace for some chicken balls, if that’s what floats your junk. Go on, open your mind and give this a go.

I’ll have another western take on a Chinese classic next in the series. Keep an eye out for Cha Sui Roast Pork with Stir Fried Noodles, coming soon.

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Latest comments
  • I bet new versions of the Kenwood Chef don’t last so long – I’ve got the very same in my kitchen, with mincer!
    Those meatballs look fantastic 😉

    • Thanks MD. They are so easy to do and the ingredients are not far from a pork chop and cabbage. Light years ahead in taste though.

  • I was disappointed to learn that there is no lion in those meatballs. Still, they look divine.

    • Tasty indeed Adam. I think I might raise some ire if I used the real thing.

  • We have various types of meatballs regularly, but I’ve never thought about doing those. good shout, Conor. One for this weekend maybe. Unusual to mince those chops though, rather than just get minced pork.

    • With due deference to the butchering community, when I mince the pork myself, I know what I am eating…. It makes for a decent photo too!

  • Great post, Conor – those look wonderful! You’ve achieved a good colour on your balls.

    • It’s all the cycling…

      • Good lord… Hoping to get out tomorrow and perhaps mine’ll end up the same delicious hue.

  • Oh, I love this Connor! My kind of meal when the weather turns cool. I’ll have to forage through my unused kitchen stuff, I think I have a mincer attachment to my Kitchen Aid. Or I could ask the butcher to do it. Thanks for another fantastic recipe.

    • Hi Lidia, Thanks for that. It fits the bill in that it is very easy, very tasty and economical.
      BTW: I was on Chicago John’s site last evening. Nice one on the pasta.

  • oh Conor – Irish humour!!!!:):) Meatballs sound and look delicious – will certainly try those once I can ‘run around’ again – love Bok Choi – I only wish I still had my mothers oldfashioned mincer – can not find one here or abroad. Keep looking thou. Carina

    • Hi Carina,
      You have been laid up for a while now. I look forward to seeing you back in the kitchen.

  • I know how you feel when you hear things like that. I love that you mince your own meat! This dish looks absolutely delicious.

    • Thanks Amanda,
      The food processor is nearly as old as myself. Unlike myself, all the bits work perfectly well. I enjoy making the mince.

  • Even though they are meatballs, the dish looks light and refreshing. In any event, I need to get myself a meat griner.

    • Do. It is pretty manly stuff feeding the meat into the screw and seeing the resulting mince come out the other end. Not as manly as using the hand operated one we had when I was growing up. That would make a man of you!

  • Hmmm…. my first comment disappeared. Conor, as an expert in gratuitous chopping shots (and the more advanced gratuitous dicing and mincing shots) I recognize talent when I see it. Your bok choy shot is cutting edge! Excellent post. I’m Pinning it. Ken

    • Thanks Ken, I admit to polishing the knife for that shot…

  • Beautiful. I love brothy plates like this.

    • It’s getting to the time of year for them. Wet here today.

  • Nice looking meatballs, Conor. Need to keep this recipe in mind now that we are having cooler weather.

    • Thanks Richard. The emphasis in this little series is simplicity. It takes marginally more effort than frying the pork chops and it is very toothsome (love that word).

  • Very nice, Conor! I had never heard of this dish, but that’s not strange since I don’t really know much about Chinese cuisine. I love the instruction to brown the meatballs on most sides 🙂 It goes without saying the pictures are great — my favorite one is the browning meatballs in the copper pan.

    • Thanks Stefan. Don’s gift of those copper pans helps with the photos. They tend to look pretty good.

      • It also helps that your pans look neat and tidy in the photos. I still stick to my rule that I don’t let the photo taking interfere TOO much with my cooking, so I often have splashes and stuff showing…

        • While I tend to not let the cooking interfere with the photo taking…

          • LOL
            I actually forgot to mention another rule of mine that also doesn’t help to produce tidy photos: I also don’t want to let cleaning interfere with the cooking. (Kees doesn’t like that rule as you can imagine)

  • Oooh, I have some bak choy in the fridge there, reckon this will be a good way to use it up!

  • these look great, conor. i actually (for once) have all the ingredients to make these. maybe i’ll give it a go this weekend. my meat grinder is one of those good old fashioned 20 kg hand crankers, so it’ll be an arm workout and a delicious meal.

    also, i’m excited for that cha sui. i’ve been developing a recipe myself for quite some time and i’m really pumped to see your take on a classic.

    • Excellent on both counts. For sure, my cha sui is a ‘take’. But, it holds true to the principals. I will post it in two weeks, with a bit of Spanish in between.

  • We love Asian food, and I cook it quite often. The thing that I love about it is that it is so flavorful that it can make even tofu appetizing! I am struggling a bit with the percentage of salt as I try to reproduce some of the more traditional dishes that require fermented/preserved things, but there are a lot of easy dishes like your gorgeous meatballs, that only require a few simple ingredients. It’s a shame really that a few greasy Chinese (probably not very authentic either!) joints are giving Asian food a bad name. Looking forward to your Char Siu Pork recipe. One of my favorite dishes is using it to make the steamed buns. If you have some pork left over, I highly recommend them 😉

    • I only ever made them twice and both times were very long ago. My daughters who are both in their 20s still ask me to do them. I think I have a plan forming.
      Thank you,

  • It sounds like those gents made the same mistake many of my countrymen make, thinking that the food they get at a Chinese take-away is authentic. These meatballs sound terrific, Conor. Sounds like a great mix of flavors within each one. I was surprised to see pork chops used. I’ve not seen it used in this way before. (I hope you saved the bones. They’ll help make a wonderful tomato sauce.) Next to my stand mixer, my “mincer” is my most cherished kitchen appliance. My dishes got so much better once I took control of the meat being used. This was a great post. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Thanks John,
      I have been chatting with two of my Chinese friends about these dishes. They has made some recommendations for more in the series. I am really enjoying their input as it does keep things real. The mincer (meat grinder) is good fun. My mum showed me a trick for cleaning it. One stuffs a couple of slices of bread in after the meat. When bread starts to come out the other end, all the meat is ground and most of the cleaning is done.

      • Oh that’s a great tip, you should put that in the article. One of the reasons I don’t use my mincer as much as I could is the pain I have in cleaning it. It is an industrial job that can do a couple of hundred kilos an hour so it’s a bit more of a job to get it set up etc.

        • I might manage a couple of hundred kilos in my lifetime!

  • Pak Choy (or whatever its called) is my favourite green, and I like to braise them with icing sugar, ginger and soy sauce. I like the way you got the meatballs to go that colour – v impressive!

    • Thanks. Gentle frying and a lot of tricky turning did the trick.

  • If only they carried bok choi at my lame-ass grocery store!
    Looking forward to the roast pork.

    • You need to move house.

      • LOL. I am making “easy kimchi” right now. I’m using Savoy cabbage because, well, of course, they don’t carry Napa!

  • I was kindly given a 1968 Kenwood ‘Chef’ by a friend. It occasionally smoked and smelt of burning electrics, but we have up-to-date electric breakers, so I decided it was ‘character’ and used it until it conked out recently. It’s now ornamental….

    Great dish this, I did some a little while back using Ken Hom’s bible as guidance. Simple and delicious like most ‘real’ Chinese food.

    • Yes Phil, they are a great device. I’ll bet you could get yours repaired. Funny, when the thing gets very old, we value it a lot. Mine makes a huge racket and rocks about while its doing its thing. I would never think of getting a new one.

  • Those meatballs look delicious – I might even give them a go at the weekend.

    • Hi Maria,
      Do try them. They are easy and tasty.

      • Trust me I will! If I could teleport those meatballs straight from your post to my plate I would. I have a real yearning for them!!

  • This is a keeper of a recipe. Great way to use bok choi. Perfectly browned.

    • Thanks. You covered the main points better than I could.

  • That looks great! Seems easy enough too! A must try!

  • Okay, I’m a week late on this one (I was traveling, and had spotty internet access), but these meatballs deserve a hearty ROAR! Well done, Conor. Can’t wait to see the roast pork and stir fried noodles.

    • Thanks Tommy. They are appearing next week. In the meantime, I have cooked a Szechuan speciality of Mapo Tofu. It will literally make your eyes water but, it was fantastic. That to follow again…. I’m having fun.

      • I’m weeping with anticipation … keep having fun!

  • Hi Conor
    Discovered your blog today through a mail shot from Glenisk, that BBQ lamb dish is going to get it next week as its outdoor cooking weather again here in Perth! For this recipe do you think I could whack the meat in the food processor?

    • Should be delicious. Just don’t over process.

  • I love bok choy and these look fantastic, Conor. “…left over from the funeral”.You’re funny!

  • Ok- I just flashed on seeing a cooking show in your future. call me crazy:)
    I love eating Chinese food but very rarely cook it at home. This is a good reminder you can enjoy the flavors and not get caught up in a mile long recipe with lard and MSG.
    Thanks. wt

    • I have never used MSG and really don’t see the need for it. It does enhance some flavours but one pays a big price in after-taste and general oddness. Fresh ingredients and a bit of care win out every time.

  • Conor — I am going to try this recipe and I just wanted to know how many servings this makes…4?

    • 4 comfortably. Even some left over. Let me know how it turns out.

      • Excellent recipe! Gentle flavors which all came together beautifully! Would you mind if I do a post and include a link to your recipe?

        • I would love it if you did Barb. Great that it worked out well.

          • For all the years that you have been writing your blog Conor, you should consider publishing a cookbook! Many thanks and stay tuned! My best – B

          • Thanks Barb. If I ever get the time…

          • It’s already done…all you have to do is put pages together, do a cover (maybe with a pouring shot), and a back cover with a bio….Call the book “One Man’s Meat – Volume 1…” 🙂

          • The pouring shot has become such a measure of one’s blogging ability. I blame Richard McGary down there in DFW.

          • I still have not mastered the pouring shot! Blast that McGary for starting this! 🙂

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