Thursday 21 March 2019

Lion's Head Meatballs from A Common Table by Cynthia Chen McTernan

Just Arthur and I here again. With my mountain of new books, of course, cookbooks. *Sigh* they are my happy place. For some, it's handbags and shoes, for me, it's cookbooks. I can't help it. I also went to a beautiful book launch the other week with a friend and there were three very talented authors there who I follow on instagram, read their blogs and listen to their podcasts (multiple times over) so it was ONLY polite to buy all three books (A Tree in the House by Annabelle Hickson, A Basket by the Door by Sophie Hansen and Tortellini at Midnight by Emiko Davies). I left with my arms full, a delicious biscuit in hand (Golden Syrup Biscuits from Sophie's book) and a buzz in my tummy. Such a lovely afternoon that finished with an indoor picnic on my couch and chats. Pretty darn perfect if you ask me. I think we were both on a high from prosecco (only a glass!), cake and books.

There are also a few books from other bloggers and chefs that I've bought this year... I know, I know, shhhhh. (New Kitchen Basics by Claire Thomson, A Common Table by Cynthia Chen McTernan and Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger) Some were from Christmas & Birthday too, calm down (Strudel, noodles and Dumplings by Anja Dunk and Family by Hetty McKinnon). I am practically bouncing with all the recipes I want to cook, but most importantly, EAT. Not enough time in the day or enough mouths at home to feed. I can fix the later of those two.
I am sitting here hungry writing this... mmmmm.

Shanghainese Lion's Lead Meatballs from A Common Table | salt sugar and i | Dani Elis

Before Tris flew out, I cooked a recipe from one of my newbies, A Common Table. The photo is not the greatest and we were too hungry to faff about and take another one, so you'll have to forgive me and my Lion's Head Meatballs in the range-hood light below. The recipe itself is Cynthia's Great-Grandmothers which she has adapted over the years and she describes it as a comforting homestyle dish, the kind that feels like your grandmothers hug. It's a dish that will warm you up on the cool nights (if Autumn ever rocks up!) and leaves you wanting to make it again and again. If that hasn't sold you to put the ingredients on your shopping list, I don't know what will.

I over salted the bok choy a little but that could have been the fact my soy sauce is on the saltier side or I was heavy handed when it asked for additional salt sprinkled over. Either way I have removed it from the recipe below, you can always add a little more if you need once it's cooked. They also didn't turn out like balls and were more of a patty which I think is ok, so don't worry if yours aren't round either. Still delicious. Next time I make them I will brown them a little more than I have in the photo too.

The flavour is mouth watering-ly savoury and garlicky, and the meat is super juicy. No dry balls here! I'm looking forward to the leftovers* (it feeds 4+ easily and there was only 2 or us. Yay!). The process sounds a little faffy but it isn't, I assure you. It's well worth dirtying the three pans (pan 1: shallow fry the balls, pan 2: steam the veg and balls, pan 3: cook the rice) you need to make this.

*Leftovers were soooo good. Makes a real mean next-day fried rice with an oozy egg on top.

If you are someone that likes spicy food, a chilli sambal (or even siracha) would go great with this. I've had enough spice to last me a good few weeks so I was perfectly happy without but Tris did mention chilli next time would be good.

Tell me readers, what take you to your latest happy place?

Lion's Head Meatballs (Shi Zi Tou)

recipe (slightly) adapted from A Common Table by Cynthia Chen McTernan from Two Red Bowls.

For the bok choy:
700g bok choy
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon sesame oil

For the meatballs:
500g pork mince
¼ cup finely sliced spring onions (about 3-4)
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 to 3 cloves)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine or sake
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
¼ cup cornflour
1 cup vegetable or other neutral oil, or as much as needed to fry
cooked rice, for serving

First, prep your bok choy: Thoroughly wash the bok choy to remove any grit. If using large heads of bok choy, you can seperate the leaves, otherwise if they are small, leave the heads more or less as is. Place the bok choy in a large heavy-bottomed pot. It should pretty much fill the pot all the way to the top, it looks like a lot, don't worry! It will be just right once the bok choy steams and wilts. Drizzle the bok choy with soy sauce and sesame oil. Set the pot aside.

Now, for the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine the pork mince, spring onions, ginger, garlic, sugar, soy sauce, cooking wine, sesame oil, and salt and stir with chopsticks or a wooden spoon until well-combined. Next, add the eggs and mix vigorously until well-combined. The mixture will seem extremely liquid—this is okay. Add the cornflour and mix again until the mixture forms a thick, porridge-like consistency, like a thick muffin batter.

Pour the oil, enough to come up about 1.5cm, into a large wok or nonstick frying pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and let the oil warm up for a few minutes. When the oil reaches about 190 to 200 C degrees, or a chopstick/skewer bubbles energetically when inserted into the oil, use a 1/4-cup measuring cup or a large ice cream scoop to drop balls of the pork mixture into the wok in a single layer. You may need to do 2 -3 batches as I only fit 5 in at a time. Let them sizzle in the pan until nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and brown the other side, another 3 minutes or so. They do not need to cook through, as they'll be getting steamed to finish. Once the meatballs are browned on both sides, remove with a slotted spoon (I dabbed mine with kitchen paper to remove any excess oil) and place on top of the prepared bok choy. Repeat with the remaining pork mixture.

Once all the meatballs are browned and nestled on top of the bok choy, cover the pot and turn the heat to medium-low. Let the bok choy and meatballs steam for 20 to 30 minutes, or until bok choy leaves have wilted and the stems are tender. When meatballs are cooked through and bok choy is done to your liking, enjoy warm, with plenty of rice.


  1. Lions head meatball is my favourite! Haven't had it in a long while. Yours looks very yummy!

  2. Yummmm this looks so comforting! I love this dish Must try.


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