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March 15, 2012

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Lion's head by our grandma

WHEN I was a young girl, one of the best things upon coming home from school were the incredible scents my nose would detect, and they immediately delivered an image of my grandmother who had been cooking all day.

Our house would be filled with fragrant chilies, freshly cut vegetables, roasted garlic, lemons, aged soy sauce, star anise, ginger and caramelized rock sugar. For decades, lion's head has been the No. 1 comfort food in our family.

My grandmother was originally from Qingdao (Shandong Province), grew up in Beijing, then relocated to Taipei, Taiwan, in the 1950s after college. Later she traveled and lived in Saudi Arabia and Katong, Singapore, where she embraced gourmet Chinese cooking.

In the 1990s, she devoted her time to her grandchildren in America; gifting her heart through the food she prepared every single day.

Grandma's lion's head

Ingredients: 1lb ground pork; 1 head Napa cabbage; 12 stalks scallions, finely minced; 1 tsp ginger, finely grated; 1 egg; 3 tbs cornstarch plus 1/2 cup cornstarch; 4 tbs water; 1 tbs rice wine; 5 tbs soy sauce plus 2 tbs soy sauce; 1 tbs dark soy; 6 tbs sugar; 1/4 cup chicken broth; 1 tbs vegetable oil


1. Wash and separate Napa cabbage leaves, drain well. In a medium bowl, mix ground pork, 2 tbs soy sauce, 1 tbs rice wine, 3 tbs cornstarch, 1 egg, minced scallions and grated ginger.

2. With a pair of chopsticks, mix in one circular motion, either clockwise or counter clockwise. While mixing, pour in 2 tbs water, mix and repeat. This makes meatballs tender. Form four medium-sized meatballs, about a 1/4 lb each. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cornstarch on a dinner plate and roll meatballs in cornstarch.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbs vegetable oil and brown the meatballs to a deep golden brown color on all sides. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

4. In a medium stove top casserole dish or Corningware, place cabbage leaves on the bottom. Place meatballs on top of cabbage; add 5 tbs soy sauce, 1 tbs dark soy sauce, 6 tbs sugar and 1/4 cup chicken broth. Cover, bring almost to a boil, then immediately lower heat and simmer. Slowly braise until Napa cabbage is wilted and takes on soy color, 20-30 minutes. Casserole can be simmered up to 45 min. Serve immediately with steamy rice.


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