Do You Like To Have A Lion’s Head? Braised Lion’s Head Meatball (红烧狮子头)


UPDATED POST ON 10-11-2014

Though lionhead’s meatball have a standard size of about 5 cm diameter of 100 grams each, however, I think my last illustration may not be attractive to local readers as they may found the meatball is excessively big..


Since I have prepared this for lunch, I have decided to prepare smaller about 3 cm in diameter. In addition, in order to enhance better handling and firmer texture, i have added some stale bread to the meat mixture.


One reader is asking how to obtain the firm meatball. One way is after the first shaping, throw the meatball to the table to force the air out and reshape again. You can also use pan frying the meatball before braising instead of deep frying. All changes are highlighted in red colour wordings.




When I was stationed in Shanghai about 15 years ago, I am especially happy if my clients ordered the famous Lion’s Head Meatball. I like it because the meatballs were soft but firm and a blend of sweet and savoury meat balls. I am especially impressed by the size of the meatballs which was usually about 5cm in the diameter and we never cooked meatball of this size in my house not even near to this size.


“Lion’s head is a dish from the Huaiyang (淮阳) cuisine of eastern China, consisting of large pork meatballs (about 7–10 cm in diameter) stewed with vegetables. There are two varieties: the white (or plain), and the red (红烧, cooked with soy sauce). The plain variety is usually stewed or steamed with napa cabbage. The red variety can be stewed with cabbage or cooked with bamboo shoots and tofu derivatives. The minced meat in the meatball tends to be made from fatty pork (lean pork making for a less desirable taste), often with some chopped water chestnut for textural variation. The name derives from the shape of the meatball which is supposed to resemble the head of the lion and the cabbage (or other vegetables), which is supposed to resemble the lion’s mane. The dish originated in the region of Yangzhou and Zhenjiang in Jiangsu province, with the plain variety more common in Yangzhou and the red variety more common in Zhenjiang. The dish became a part of Shanghai cuisine with the influx of migrants in the 19th and early 20th century.”  (Source:’s_head_(food))


There are two version of the lion’s head meatball, once is the braised darker version whereas another type is the clearer soup version. In this post, I have prepared the dark sweet version of the meatball because it was the type that I missed dearly. As this is a savoury dish, all quantities stated here are for reference and please feel free to adjust to the taste that suits your families taste buds.


I have purposely prepared in the traditional size of about 5 cm in diameter with about 100 grams each. However, if this is too big for you, feel free to the adjust to the size that you feel comfortable with.


The meatballs are supposed to be slightly hard on the exterior but soft and juicy in the interior. It goes well with the braised sauce which is sweet with soya sauce aroma.   The sauce is especially tasty and goes well with some porridges or white rice.



Servings : Prepared about 6 meatballs of 100 grams each


For meatballs

  • 500 grams of minced pork belly
  • 100 grams of fish paste (optional)
  • 30 grams of stale bread or mantou cut into small pieces..
  • 1 lotus root of about 5-6 cm long or about 10 water chestnuts
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic ginger water (3 cloves of garlic and 1 cm of ginger, pound and extract the juices)
  • 2 tablespoons of corn flour
  • 1 tablespoon of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of dark soya sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of light soya sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 1 egg
  • Few stalks of white portion of spring onion
  • Pinches of salt

For Braised Sauce 

  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons dark soya sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar or 1 small piece of rock sugar
  • Pinches of salt
  • Some spring onion (cut in big pieces)
  • 1 cm of ginger cut into big pieces
  • 2 tablespoons of corn starch with 5 tablespoons of water


  • Adequate cooking oil for deep frying
  • Some green vegetables of your choice

As this is a savoury dish, all condiments and seasonings are for reference and feel free to adjust to the quantities of seasonings that suit your taste buds.




  • Pound the ginger and garlic and extract the juice. Set aside for later use.

  • In a food processor, put the water chestnuts or lotus root and white portion of the spring onion, blend until small pieces. Add the minced meat and all other ingredients (including eggs, sugar, ginger and garlic juices and seasonings), blend until fine. Alternatively, you can manually mix these ingredients.


  • Shape the minced meat into round balls of your desired size. (I have shaped the balls into abut 5cm diameter round balls  of about 100 grams each). In order to force the air out, throw the meatball on the table and reshape again. Purpose of this step to ensure some springy meatball. Set aside for later deep frying.

  • In a pot, put the 2 cups of water and all the seasonings  (except the starch solution) for the braising (this is an estimate and will depend on the size of your pot. In general, the water should be able to cover at least 3/4 height of the meatballs. Therefore, you will need to readjust the water and seasonings if necessary for the later stage).  Bring to boil.

  • In another frying pan, add some cooking oil for deep frying. Test the readiness of the cooking oil by inserting a chopstick into the cooking oil and see if bubbles starts to emit. Once the oil temperature is ready, put the meat ball and deep fried until the outside is golden brown. (Note that in this step, the deep frying is to fix the shape of the meatballs and not really to cook the meat ball. You can use an air fryer if you prefer.) Alternatively, you can shallow frying or pan frying the meat ball. As long as the exterior has hardened, it is ready for braising.


  • Once the meatballs turn golden brownish (about 5-10 minutes), transfer the meat ball into the hot boiling sauce on the other pot. Let it simmer at medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. Add additional water if the sauce dries up to quickly. After 15 minutes, add the starch solution and off the heat when the sauce turns transparent (about 1-2 minutes). Best garnish with blanched vegetable of your choice and serve as one of the dish in a typical Chinese set meals.



The normal size of the meatball is about 5-6 cm in diameter with about 100 grams each but recently, most families and restaurant have reduced the size of the meatball due to health conscious and the unwillingness to take too much meat. Therefore, feel free to reduce to the size of your choice. It was usually served 4 in a plate surrounded by blanched or braised vegetables such as cabbages. This is called Four happiness meatballs (sixiwanzhi or 四喜丸子) especially in the Northern part of People’s Republic of China.


Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.



  • For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 8 June 2014)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit the blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE to keep abreast of my future posts.  




3 thoughts on “Do You Like To Have A Lion’s Head? Braised Lion’s Head Meatball (红烧狮子头)

  1. Pingback: RECIPE INDEX ( Updated on 8 June 2014) | GUAI SHU SHU

  2. Pingback: RECIPE INDEX ( Updated on 16 AUGUST 2014) | GUAI SHU SHU

  3. Pingback: RECIPE INDEX ( Updated on 13 March 2015) | GUAI SHU SHU

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