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Six lion's head meatballs in a plate
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5 from 3 votes

Lion’s Head Meatballs (狮子头)

Lion’s head meatballs is a classic Chinese dish consisting of giant pork meatballs, Napa cabbage and a delicious broth. Follow my recipe to make it to a restaurant standard. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Meatballs, Pork, Shi Zi Tou
Servings: 6
Calories: 233kcal
Author: Wei Guo


For the meatballs

  • 2 stalks scallions
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger
  • 400 g minced pork, with 20% fat or higher see note 1
  • 100 g minced chicken
  • 2 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 60 g water chestnut, minced about 10 canned ones
  • Cooking oil for deep frying see note 2

For the soup

  • 7 pieces Napa cabbage leaves, cut in halves crosswise
  • 6 large dried shiitake mushroom, soaked in 500ml water overnight
  • ½ tablespoon dried shrimp optional
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 pinch ground white pepper


Prepare the meatball mixture

  • Cut the scallions into sections (save some green parts for garnishing the dish later) and slice the ginger. Soak them in 6 tablespoon of warm water. Leave to cool.
  • In a bowl, mix minced pork, minced chicken, Shaoxing rice wine, light soy sauce, salt, sugar, sesame oil, egg and cornstarch. Stir constantly in one direction while adding the scallion ginger water little by little.
  • Once the liquid is fully absorbed and the meat becomes sticky and jiggly, add minced water chestnut then stir to combine.

Shape & fry the meatballs

  • In a deep pot, heat up oil for deep frying (A smaller pot requires less oil).
  • Divide the meat mixture into 6 portions. Transfer one portion to a small bowl. Use a spatular or a spoon to press the meat against the bowl to shape it into a ball (please refer to the video below). 
  • When the temperature of the oil reaches 180°C/360°F (see note 4 if you don’t have a kitchen thermometer), gently slide the meatball into the oil (be careful not to splash). Roll it from time to time to ensure even colouring. Take out when they look golden all around.
  • Repeat the procedure to shape and fry the rest of the balls. Since these meatballs are quite large (about 7cm/2.7in), do not fry more than 2 balls at a time as you don’t want the oil temperature to drop too much. Also, the meatballs need ample space to move around in the oil.

Cook the soup

  • In another pot, lay the white part of the Napa cabbage then place the fried meatballs on top.
  • Add sliced shiitake mushrooms and pour in the water in which the mushrooms were soaked (discard the solid bits at the bottom of the bowl).
  • Add the scallions & ginger (which were used to flavour the water used in the meat mixture) and dried shrimp (if using). Season with salt and white pepper.
  • Bring the soup to a full boil. Turn the heat to low. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 15 mins. Put the remaining leafy part of the cabbage over the meatballs. Continue simmering for a further 5 mins. 
  • Garnish with finely chopped scallions. Serve warm with plain rice, along with other savoury dishes.



1. Instead of minced pork, Chinese professional chefs always use hand-chopped pork for this dish. It’s believed that manual mincing creates a better texture. I encourage you to try this method if time permits.
2. The amount of oil required for deep frying depends on the size of your cookware. To save oil, I suggest you use a small deep pot. For a 20cm/8inch one like mine, you would need 800ml, about 3.5 cups. Read the label of the oil to see if it’s suitable for deep frying.
3. For a richer taste, I prefer dried shiitake mushrooms to fresh ones. They are widely available in Chinese/Asian stores and mainstream online shopping platforms.
4. Apart from kitchen thermometer, you may also use a chopstick to test the temperature. Dip the tip into the oil. If small bubbles immediately appear around the chopstick, the temperature is high enough to start frying.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 233kcal