the appetizer:

Chinese cooking, like most of Asia, focuses first on a starch like rice or noodles, then adds an accompaniment of meat or seafood, rather than meat first, starch and vegetables second, as found in European-influenced cuisines. Recipes in China are as diverse as the language, with its 80,000 characters, and Chinese immigrants have brought this complex culinary heritage to almost every region of the world.

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Royal Lion's Head

Lion Head Meatball

by Martin Yan

These large meatballs are supposed to resemble the head of a lion, especially when served with cabbage leaves draped over them as a "mane." They are often served on special occasions to symbolize happiness.

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons dried shrimp
1 pound lean ground pork
1/4 cup water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1 green onion (including top), thinly sliced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon sugar

vegetable oil for deep frying
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
8 large Chinese (napa) cabbage leaves
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


Soak shrimp in warm water to cover for 30 minutes; drain. Mince shrimp and combine with remaining meatball ingredients. Set aside for 30 minutes. Shape into 4 large meatballs, each approximately 2-1/2 inches in diameter.


Set wok in a ring stand and add oil to a depth of about 2 inches. Over high heat, bring oil to 350 degrees F. Add meatballs and cook for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Lift out and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 2 tablespoons oil from wok and set wok over high heat until hot. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Add meatballs, broth, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Place cabbage leaves over meatballs. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes longer. Sprinkle with sesame oil before serving.

Tip: If a thicker sauce is desired, transfer cabbage and meatballs to a platter with a slotted spoon. Add 3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/3 cup water to sauce, and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens.

Reprinted by permission from A Wok for All Seasons by Martin Yan (Doubleday).


Chinese Cuisines and Customs

Chinese and Lunar New Year Handbook

from Kate's Global Kitchen:

Chinese Cookbooks

Chinese Recipes


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This page modified January 2007