Sunday, August 05, 2007

China, The Beautiful Cookbook: Shīzi Tóu (“Lion Heads” Stewed Large Meatballs)

This is the Chinese answer to those big 'ol meatballs you get at Italian restaurants that are as big as your fist.  Except I think the Chinese probably thought these up first.  And because they cook up low and slow, they're about as tender as silk.  You can cook them over low heat, or you can do what I did, and put them in the oven at 325°F.

Note: I didn't have any lard on me, so I decided that bacon fat is much more suitable than tasteless vegetable oil for frying the cabbage.

Shīzi Tóu (“Lion Heads” Stewed Large Meatballs)
Adapted from China, The Beautiful Cookbook by Kevin Sinclair

1¼ pounds lean ground pork
2½ tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 (1½-pound) Napa cabbage
½ (15-ounce) can straw mushrooms, rinsed (optional)
Lard or vegetable oil, for frying
1½ to 2 cups chicken stock

Mix together the pork, green onion, ginger, salt, and wine and work the meat with your fingers until smooth and sticky. Form into 4 large meatballs.

Wash the cabbage and cut lengthwise into quarters. Stir-fry the cabbage and mushrooms (if using) briefly in a wok in lard or vegetable oil, adding a generous pinch of salt.

Spread half of the cabbage across the bottom of a casserole and place the meatballs on top, then cover with the remaining cabbage.

Add enough boiling stock to just cover the meatballs. Cover the casserole tightly and simmer over low heat for about 1½ hours or until the meatballs are melt-in-the-mouth tender.

Serve in the casserole, pushing the vegetables to one side to expose the meatballs.

Makes 4 servings

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