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Shanghai’s Lion’s Head Meatballs — With A Jewish Twist

The cuisine of Shanghai, as with that of most Chinese cities, tends to feature pork and shrimp-based dishes. This recipe uses veal instead of pork (turkey is also a fine substitute) and includes the soy sauce and sugar that distinguish Shanghai cooking. Lion’s head meatballs got their name because they were thought to resemble lions’ heads framed by manes of greens.

Lion’s Head Meatballs

1 pound Peking cabbage (Napa cabbage) or bok choy
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 pound veal (or turkey — not lean)
4–6 canned water chestnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2½ teaspoons dry sherry
3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ cups chicken broth

1) Wash and drain the greens; lightly chop them and set aside.

2) Combine the ground veal or turkey with the green onion, water chestnuts, ginger, salt, pepper, sugar, sherry and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Add the egg, mixing together thoroughly.

3) Add as much cornstarch as needed to prevent the meat from being wet. Start with 2 tablespoons and slowly add more.

4) Form 4 large meatballs and flatten slightly on each side. (You can make more by making them smaller, but cook them for a slightly shorter period of time).

5) Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (a drop of water sizzles), add the meatballs, cooking about 5 minutes per side or until the meatballs are lightly browned.

6) Using a pot that’s just large enough to hold the meatballs, bring the broth and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to a boil. Add the meatballs, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, 10 minutes.

7) Add the cabbage or bok choy, cover, and steam for another 15 minutes. Check halfway to make sure the meatballs don’t become too hard. Serve each meatball surrounded by greens or place in a bowl with greens and soup.

Adapted from:


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