September 17, 2006

Lion's Head stew

Every so often, I need to prove to myself that I can make Chinese food, at least on a rudimentary level. This all stems from the time I made a couple of Chinese dishes for dinner one night for my mom several years ago. When I asked her if she liked it, she just said "Don't do that again..." Needless to say, I try and stick with the simple stuff.

Lion's Head stew (or 獅子頭) is a Shanghai dish (originally from Zhenjiang in the Jiangsu province, according to Wikipedia) consisting of large pork meatballs stewed with napa cabbage. The dish gets its name from the gigantic meatballs and the arrangement of the cabbage, which resembles the lion's head. This dish is totally comfort food for me... the texture of the braised/stewed napa cabbage and the rich resulting broth is perfect for cold nights. And luckily, it's really easy to make.

Ginger is absolutely critical for this dish. Most recipes call for minced fresh ginger within the meatballs. I thought I'd try a little variation, so I used a combination of minced frech and pickled ginger for the meatballs and a few small chunks of ginger for stewing in the broth itself. That's another nice thing about this dish -- it's really open to variations.

My version of the dish didn't really resemble a lion's head at all; you have to make HUGE meatballs for that. These were larger than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball... just trying to keep the meat consumption a little rational. I think even my mom would have liked it. Maybe.

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