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Lion’s Head Soup {Pork Meatballs, Shi Zi Tou}

by Shirley
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Lion's Head Soup Pork Meatballs {清炖狮子头 Authentic Huai Yang Style}

Lion’s Head Soup or pork meatballs in the clear soup {Qing Dun Shi Zi Tou 清炖狮子头} is one of the classic Huai Yang style dishes. It features super tender melt-in-your-mouth delicious pork meatballs in a heavenly delicious clear soup with bok choy. Authentic Huai Yang Style Shi Zi Tou has original color and is blanched first and then simmered for a couple of hours. This slow cooking process magically transformed the meatball into this scrumptious Shi Zi Tou Soup.

Huai Yang Cuisine {淮阳菜} is native to China’s Yangtze River Delta, a place I proudly call my hometown. It is one of the Four Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisines. Well known for its natural deliciousness, Huai Yang Cooking Style aims to bring out the food itself’s inherent yumminess. The condiments are only there to complement but not overpower. Huai Yang Style Food uses very little salt, oil, and avoids strong condiments such as hot peppers. Therefore, it is suitable for all ages, including young children.

Huai Yang Cuisine Classic Dishes Collection 1
Huai Yang Cuisine Classic Dishes

Lion’s Head Soup Fun Facts

The history of Lion’s Head can be traced back to China’s Sui Dynasty, around 581 AD – 618 AD. Then Emperor visited Jiang Nan (South of Yangtze River, today’s Yangtze River Delta area). The emperor was so impressed by the trip that after he returned home; he started missing Jiang Nan. Therefore, he ordered his royal chef to make him dishes that can help him re-live the experience. The rest is the story.

My hometown Suzhou lies in the heart of Jiang Nan. This soup to me is a nostalgia comforting soup more than anything.

What makes Huai Yang style Lion’s Head Soup So Delicious?

First is the featured ingredient – salted bamboo shoots

Bamboo shoots, the tender bamboos that break out from the ground during early spring, are the perfect pork companion. The bamboo shoot is very tender and has a subtle refreshing aroma and texture, and it complements pork so well. It cuts down the potentially greasy feeling of the pork, brings out all the inherent yummy flavor of the meat, and adds crunching texture to the final meatball.

Lion's Head Soup Ingredients
Chinese Lion’s Head Soup Ingredients

Since bamboo shoots are only available during the early springtime. People since ancient time has been using salt to preserve the blanched bamboo shoots to use for the rest of the year. We call this version “Bian Jian” (扁尖), which is typically available in Asian grocery stores.

Lion's Head soup

Second is the quality and the fat level of the ground pork

It is easy to make perfect ground pork at home for this Lion’s Head, pork filling for dumplings and buns, and more. If you get ground pork from a grocery store, try to get freshly ground quality pork that has a lean percentage of 70% or less.

Lion's Head Soup {Easy Yummy Authentic Huai Yang Style}

Last but not least is the slow cooking or simmering process

The old saying good thing takes time is so true with Lion’s Head soup. Slowly and surely, the 2-hour simmering progress gradually cooks the meatball little by little that keeps all the moisture, tenderness, and brings out all the yumminess.

The pot is also the key here. Need a pot that contains the heat well, such as a cast-iron stockpot. I also have a stainless steel tri-ply stockpot that works well too.

Lion’s Head has a red braised version. Remember to check it out and let me know which version you like better.

Lion's Head Soup {Shi Zi Tou Pork Meatballs Soup}

Lion's Head Soup Recipe {Easy Authentic Huai Yang Style Shi Zi Tou}

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Lion’s Head or pork meatballs in the clear soup {Qing Dun Shi Zi Tou 清炖狮子头} is one of the classic Huai Yang style dishes. It features super tender melt-in-your-mouth delicious pork meatballs in a heavenly delicious clear soup with bok choy.


For Pork Meatball:

  • 2 lb ground pork, preferably home ground
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp naturally aged soy sauce, or dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 tbsp Zhenjiang Vinegar
  • 2 large cage-free eggs
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot flour
  • 1 tbsp organic sugar in the raw
  • 12 slices of ginger
  • 3 large stalks of green onions
  • 3 large Bian Jian, see notes
  • 3 liters of water

For the Vegetable:

  • 1 lb of Shanghai bok choy



  1. Soak salted tender bamboo shoots 5 hours in advance, change the water at least two times during the process
  2. Cut ginger into thin slices, green onions, and bamboo shoot into one-inch-long bite sizes.
  3. Add ginger, green onions, and bamboo shoots into a compact food processor, use cut and grind mode alternatively to turn them into a coarse paste.
  4. Fill a large stockpot with 3 liters of water, turn the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil.
  5. While waiting, place ground pork in a large mixing bowl. Add light soy sauce, aged soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, Zhenjiang vinegar, eggs, arrowroot flour, and green onions, ginger & bamboo shoots paste.
  6. Use a bamboo spatular to gently break down the ground pork and fold it into the seasonings and condiments.
  7. Gradually increase the speed of turning, make sure you turn the spatula always in the same direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise.
  8. Swiftly turn the spatula to mix for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is fully blended and bonded.


  1. Leave the stockpot on simmer mode.
  2. Scoop out one meatball portion, use two hands to toss and form a meatball, and then carefully place into the hot temperature water. The meatball solidifies immediately in the water.
  3. Repeat the above step until you've done with all the ground pork mixture. You get about two dozens of meatballs, depending on the size of the meatballs.
  4. Gently stir all meatballs in the pot and make sure they are not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 2 hours

Prepare the bok choy:

  1. Soak and clean the bok choy thoroughly, tear the outer leaves, and wash inside of the leaves. Then cut into halves vertically
  2. Fill a saucepan with water, bring it to boil, and add bok choy, cook for 1 minute, and then remove the Bok Choy from the water and set them aside.

Serving the Soup:

  1. When meatball soup is done, scoop out meatball and soup in a bowl and then add the blanched bok choy.


  • One of the secret ingredients that bring all the flavor out is the bamboo shoot. Bamboo is an amazing plant, itself doesn't have much flavor. However, it complements pork so well, cuts down the greasy feeling of the pork, and brings out all the inherent yumminess of the meat.
  • Salted tender bamboo shoots are called "Bian Jian" in Chinese.
  • The quality and the fat level of the ground pork play a vital role in the tenderness and flavor of the final meatball. Check out here on how you can quickly grind perfect ground pork at home.
  • If you get ground pork from a grocery store, try to get freshly ground pork that has a lean percentage of about 75%.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 8 servings Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 442Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 9gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 153mgSodium 910mgCarbohydrates 18gFiber 2gSugar 3gProtein 34g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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