Monday, February 23, 2015

Lion's Head

     Lion's Head For Chinese New Year Brings Good Luck And Fortune!    
     If 1 Lion's Head brings good luck, then 3 Lion's Heads must bring triple good luck!  I am not sure if Confucius would agree with this logic, but one simply cannot go wrong by having a positive outlook during the Chinese New Year celebration!
     Lion's Head is a highly seasoned pork meatball with that is wrapped with cabbage.  The meatball represents a lion's head and the cabbage represents the lion's hairy mane.   Napa cabbage or bok choy are the best cabbage choices for making lion's head, because the leaves create a nice looking effect.
     There are many regional variations of Lion's Head recipes in China.  Many Lion's Head recipes from northern China are glazed with a red color sauce.  Some recipes call for a meatball that is wok fried to a golden brown color.  Some Lion's Head meatballs are boiled or steamed and they have plain pale look.  Basically there are as many Lion's Head variations as there is lions!
     Today's recipe is broth version of Lion's Head that is popular in some parts of eastern China.    Boiled Lion's Head might look plain and simple but these meatballs pack a lot of good flavor.

    Lion's Head is a special entrée that is served during special occasions like weddings, birthdays and of course Chinese New Year.  Lion's Head has a reputation of bringing fortune and good luck in the future.  If you believe, then it will happen!  Lion's head is a perfect Chinese New Year treat to share with guests!

     Lion's Head:
     This recipe yields 3 medium large lion's heads and enough broth to share!
     Step 1:  Place 11 ounces of ground pork in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely minced water chestnut.
     Add 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste.  (Shrimp paste is strong.  A little goes a long way!)
     Add 4 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 3 teaspoons of minced ginger.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Thoroughly mix the ground pork mixture.
     Step 2:  Form three equal size meatballs.
     Step 3:  Place enough light chicken broth in a sauce pot to cover the meat balls.  (About 1 quart.)
     Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Step 4:  Place the pork meatballs in the boiling broth.
     Add a few slices of water chestnut to the broth.
     Boil the meatballs for a few minutes, till the outside of the meatballs become firm.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Gently boil the meatballs, till they become fully cooked.  (A center temperature of 155º to 165º is good.)
     Remove the meatballs from the broth and keep them warm on a stove top.
     Step 6:  Place three trimmed baby bok choy in the gently boiling broth.  (The baby bok choy have to be large enough to wrap around the meatballs.)
     Boil the bok choy, till they are wilted and so they still have a little bit of crisp bite.
     Step 7:  Remove the bok choy from the broth.
     Place the wilted bok choy in a bowl and cool them under cold running water.
     Step 8:  Place the bok choy on a cutting board.  Open the bok choy leaves and cut the small center heart out of each bok choy, but be sure leave the rest of the baby bok choy stalks attached to the stem end.
     Step 9:  Place each meatball in the center of each bok choy.
     Wrap the bok choy leaves around the meatballs.
     Step 10:  Place the meatball stuffed bok choy Lion's Heads in a large soup bowl with the stem ends facing down.
     Peel the bok choy leaves back to expose the meatballs, so the bok choy leaves resemble a lion's mane.
     Scoop the water chestnut slices out of the broth and place them in the bowl.
     Slowly pour the hot broth over each lion's head to reheat them.
     Sprinkle a few green onion slices on the broth in the bowl.

     Five spice powder and pork is a classic combination.  Shrimp paste and water chestnut are traditional Chinese meatball flavors.  Eating an entrée that brings good luck and fortune is a great way to start the new year!  

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