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And seeing as I live in the cultural wasteland of South Lake Tahoe, if I want some Chinese food that isn’t fried rice or orange chicken, I’ve gotta make it myself.  Seriously, we have good sushi and good white people food, but aside from a few gems, there’s no international food here; we’re almost even too far North for good Mexican food.

I wanted to do a kind of duo this week making two Chinese dishes out of 1 lb of ground pork and one head of napa cabbage.  Today, I’m making some great pork meatballs.  These meatballs are super tender and flavorful; and don’t worry, although they’re called ‘Lion’s Head meatballs,’ no lions were harmed in the making of this dish.  The two theories I’ve heard on their name is that the meatballs are as big as a loin’s head (more of an exaggeration, I think) or that the meatballs look like the lion’s head and the sauteed napa cabbage looks like the lion’s mane (a bit more realistic.)

Lion’s Head Meatballs – served with sauteed cabbage and rice

Serves 2-3 – cost approx $1.26 per serving, including rice


  • 1/2 lb ground pork ($1.10)
  • 2 scallions, chopped fine ($.10)
  • 3 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 head napa cabbage, about 1 lb, roughly chopped ($1.19)

Start by combining all the ingredients in the first list to make the meatballs.  I like to stir my meatball mixture with chopsticks because it almost aerates the mixture while you’re stirring.  To form the meatballs, get out a large spoon and a small bowl of water.  Wet the spoon (in my experience, it helps to keep the meat from sticking) and take approximately 2 – 3 Tbs of the meat mix in your hand.


Use the damp spoon to scoop and smooth the meatball into a perfect little sphere.  [If this doesn’t make sense, it may be helpful to look up on the interwebs how to make a ‘quenelle’ and use that sort of motion.]


Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Also, heat 1/2″ of water in a small sauce pot.  Fry the meatballs in the oil until dark brown on all sides.


Next, transfer them to the sauce pot with simmering water and cover the meatballs.  Let simmer 5-10 minutes while you prepare the cabbage.

Pour out all but 1 Tbs of the vegetable oil, saute the napa cabbage until wilted.  3-5 minutes.  Gently pour the meatballs out, along with their cooking liquid, on top of the cabbage.

DSCN4592Partially cover the pan and let simmer gently for another 10 minutes.

I find that a chopstick is useful for keeping a pot 'partially covered.'

I find that a chopstick is useful for keeping a pot ‘partially covered.’

Now you can uncover your little beauties and dig in!