Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3: Lion's Head (Pork Meatballs and Napa Cabbage)

   Coarse salt
1 cup short-grain white rice
   Vegetable oil, for drizzling and frying
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 pounds ground pork
1/3 cup tamari (dark aged soy sauce), plus more for serving
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 medium to large head of Napa cabbage, cut into large dice

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add salt and the rice. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Set aside.

Drizzle some oil in a small nonstick skillet preheated to medium-high heat, then cook the mushrooms and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with a little salt. Remove from the pan and cool for 5 minutes.

Pour 2 inches of the oil in the bottom of a large wok or wok-shaped skillet and heat over high heat.

Place the pork in a bowl. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Add the tamari, the egg, a few spoonfuls of the cornstarch, and the pepper. Use a pair of chopsticks to mix the meat, stirring only in one direction until combined. The mixture will be wet.

Place all but one tablespoon of the remaining cornstarch on a plate. Form 10 to 12 large, soft meatballs and dust them lightly but evenly in the cornstarch.

When the oil smokes, add the balls and flash-fry them for 2 minutes on each side, or until deep golden in color. Drain the balls on paper towels.

In a deep pot heat the chicken stock to a bubble. Add half of the cabbage, then layer in all of the balls and the remaining cabbage. The pot should be filled to the top. Place a lid on the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. The cabbage will cook down and add to the broth.

Remove a ladleful of broth to a small bowl and dissolve a tablespoon of cornstarch in it, then return it to the pot. Simmer with the lid off for a minute or two to thicken the broth.

Serve with the rice and extra tamari.


This is one of Rachael Ray's MYOTO meals (make your own take out), and it's pretty good. She says: "The wonderful actress Ming Na taught me this recipe. It was handed down to her from her parents, who owned a successful Chinese restaurant for twenty-five years. It's not fair! Ming Na is gorgeous and talented and she can cook, too! But, we can console ourselves with these Chinese meatballs. The chopped cabbage is served in a pile, the meatballs in the middle: a head surrounded by a mane...a lion's head. Ming uses mushroom-flavored thick soy sauce, I cannot find that product where I live, so I use finely chopped shiitakes and aged soy sauce."

I think it's supposed to be 2 1/2 to 3 meatballs per serving, but I could only eat 1. They're pretty big. I didn't have my wok to cook this, so I used my soup pot for the meatballs. It worked out just fine. Everything else, I did just as the recipe said. I was sort of afraid to make this recipe because last time I made it (about 4 years ago) the oil caught fire, and I almost burned down the house! You just have to keep an eye on it and put the meatballs in as soon as it starts to smoke.

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