Lion’s Head Meatball Soup

Lion's Head Meatball is a Shanghai dish, and one of my favorites.  It's normally served like a casserole dish.  Giant, oversized pork meatballs are served on a bed of cooked napa cabbage.  The ruffled cabbage leaves surrounding the meatballs supposedly resembles a lion's head and its mane, which is where the name comes from.

The meatballs are usually quite big.  The meatballs are made with ground pork, and when made right, the pork is very soft and moist.  I like to make my with water chestnuts, which adds a nice crunch to the texture.


When I went to Dean Sin World, they sell frozen Lion's head meatballs.  The ready made frozen ones are a lot smaller than the ones I usually make or the ones that are served in the casserole dish, but Dean Sin World uses them to make a Lion's Head soup.  I've never seen Lion's head meatballs served in a soup and I wanted to try the dish, but there simply wasn't any room after all the other dishes Boyfriend and I had ordered.

I saw a picture of the soup and decided to recreate it myself.  It looked to be just a chicken stock broth with napa cabbage and glass vermicelli noodles.  The dish was a big hit with my siblings and Boyfriend.

While I didn't make the meatballs, here is the recipe I usually use.  Next time when I make my own, I'll take some step by step photos.  They are pretty easy to make. 

Lion's Head Meatballs


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger root
  • 10 minced water chestnuts
  • 3/4 cup cold water


1. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. 

2. Take a large chunk of meat (whatever size you desire your meatballs to be), and roll into the shape of a ball in between you palms. Traditionally the meatballs for the casserole dish are very big.  But for the soup, they should be a bit smaller, about 2 inches in diameter.

3.  Fry the meatballs in a pan of hot oil, until meatball is fully cooked.

Lion's Head Meatball Soup


  • Napa cabbage
  • Glass noodles
  • Chicken stock
  • Lion's Head Meatballs


1.  Soak dried glass noodles in a large bowl of water and set aside.  The glass noodles I buy are usually separated into little individual bundles.  I used 4 bundles, but it really depends on how much you want to use.  By soaking them in water first, when you put the noodles in your soup, it won't soak up all the soup liquid as it sits in the soup.

2. Chop napa cabbage into bite-sized pieces.  I used about 7 napa cabbage leaves.

3. Boil 8-10 cups of chicken stock in a large pot.  

4. After chicken stock is boiling, add in the already cooked lion's head meatballs.  I put in 10 meatballs.  Cook for approximately 15 minutes on low boil.  Add in napa cabbage and glass noodles, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove pot from heat.

5 comments on “Lion’s Head Meatball Soup”

  1. Hello
    This recipe’s name of Lion’s Head Meatball is actually an eye catching name for me.Well I have never tried any Shanghai dish.This seems delicious and now I can’t wait to make this recipe.Thanks..

  2. I like lion head and made them before. Usually I like to play with the size of the meat balls – make it really gigantic or extreme to the minis.

  3. I like the gigantic ones, but they are harder to cook. =)

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