Lion's Head Meatballs

July/August 2007

Your rating: None Average: 3.9 (33 votes)

This is a famous dish along the Yangtze, with regional variations. In Shanghai, the sauce will be sweet and sour. In Chongqing, it will be hot and spicy. And in Wuhan...well, it will depend on the season and the mood of the chef.

"Just made for the first time after keeping the recipe for quite a while; excellent flavor! 1/2 pork, 1/2 chicken was my choice. Very easy and worked well to finish cooking in a crock pot at work for a group lunch. No leftovers! "
Lion's Head Meatballs

Makes: 10 meatballs, for 5 main-dish or 10 appetizer servings

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Total Time:


  • 1 cup “lite” coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 pound lean ground pork, or beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup minced leek, white and pale green part only
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons seeded and minced fresh chile pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium head Boston or iceberg lettuce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, or Thai basil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest


  1. Combine coconut milk, soy sauce and curry powder in a large saucepan. Set aside.
  2. Place pork (or beef), scallions, leek, cornstarch, flour, sesame oil, ginger, chile, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Knead by hand until thoroughly combined and the mixture becomes sticky. Divide into 10 equal portions, about 1/4 cup each. Roll each portion into a ball.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, swirling to coat the sides. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Bring the coconut-milk mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs; cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 8 minutes.
  5. Line a serving bowl with lettuce leaves. Arrange the meatballs on top. Garnish with basil and lemon zest. Serve hot with the coconut-milk sauce drizzled over the top or on the side for dipping.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate the meatball mixture (Step 2) for up to 2 days.


Per meatball: 115 calories; 7 g fat (3 g sat, 1 g mono); 26 mg cholesterol; 5 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 10 g protein; 1 g fiber; 297 mg sodium; 83 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (15% daily value).

Exchanges: 1 1/2 lean meat, 1/2 vegetable

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Recipe Categories

Total Time
45 minutes or less
Health & Diet Considerations
Diabetes appropriate
Low carbohydrate
8 or more
Main Ingredient
Preparation/ Technique

Type of Dish
Main dish, meat
Ease of Preparation
July/August 2007
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