Home » Cuisines » Huai Yang Cuisine » Red Braised Pork Meatballs {Hong Shao Shi Zi Tou}

Red Braised Pork Meatballs {Hong Shao Shi Zi Tou}

by Shirley

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

Red Braised Lion's Head {Pork Meatballs 红烧狮子头}

Red Braised Pork Meatballs, or Lion’s Head {Hong Shao Shi Zi Tou 红烧狮子头}, or Pork Meatballs, is a classic well-liked Huai Yang style dish. It features juicy and savory pork meatballs.

Now you can make delicious Red Braised Lion’s Head using a healthy simplified method in under 45 minutes.

A healthier way of cooking Red Braised Pork Meatballs {Hong Shao Shi Zi Tou}

Unlike most meatball cooking methods, which usually involving either baking or deep-frying, I use a unique method which is to blanch meatballs first in hot temperature water to solidify the meatball surface first into a meatball shape and then braise them in sauces.

Blanch Pork Meatballs for Braising
Blanch Pork Meatballs for Braising

This is the same method I use for super tasty Swedish Meatballs with Gravy.

TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) philosophy believes the cooking method plays an important role in the health impact of food. I talked about Yin vs. Yang’s balancing theory in the Nanjing Salted Duck post.

Per TCM, steaming is the best way of cooking food. Baking or grill is not ideal, as it introduces a lot of “heat” into the food.

TCM theory generally doesn’t recommend deep frying. Not only it introduces “heat” and forces us to consume excessive oils, but also involves potentially consuming harmful substances when oil breaks down at or above their smoke point.

Nevertheless, sometimes we still need to deep fry food, for instance, for a delicious Stir-Fried Egg Plant {Chinese Di San Xian 地三鲜} or Zucchini Fritters {Xi Hu Lu Bing 西葫芦饼}. I would use avocado oil which is healthier and has a much higher smoking point. I also coat the food with arrowroot flour or flour so that they absorb less oil.

However, I use braising method a lot since t is just not workable to steam every single dish, therefore we resort to braising as the second-best way of cooking from the TCM health impact perspective. You will see I use a lot of braising methods when cooking meat, poultry, or seafood.

What do you need to make Red Braised Pork Meatballs?

Red Braised Lion's Head Pork Meatballs Ingredients
Red Braised Lion’s Head Pork Meatballs Ingredients

Ground Pork:

Naturally, the ground pork plays a vital role in the taste of the final meatballs. The meat freshness and quality are surely two important factors. Another important factor is that the pork must contain a certain amount of fat in order for the meatball to have that yummy juiciness.

I have to say to it is not as easy to find quality ground pork from the grocery stores as compared to find quality ground beef. However, if you have a Kitchen Aid with a meat grinder attachment as I do, or have a meat grinder, it is easy to make your own quality ground pork at home. I typically use 60% pork butt or shoulder and 40% pork belly combo for my ground pork. Check out my post on how to make ground pork at home.

home ground pork

Red yeast rice (红曲米) as a natural source of red color for Red Braised Pork Meatballs:

Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice Powder
Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice Powder

The shining red color comes from red yeast rice or Hong Qu Mi (红曲米) in Chinese. It is an all-natural source of red color.

Red yeast rice is rice that has been fermented with certain types of yeast. The fermentation process changes the color of the rice from white to red. We use it a lot in my hometown Suzhou area as an all-natural food color. I use it to cook yummy Red Braised Pork Belly or Braised Beef Shank, or Braised Duck.

It worth mentioning that according to medical research, people also use red yeast rice as a dietary supplement to promote healthy cholesterol levels. What a bonus!

Green Leafy Vegetables

Bok Choy is great, but kale or other green leafy shall work too.

This year we grew two types of buck choys in our backyard vegetable garden. The first one has shorter leaves in darker green, the second one has longer leaves in lighter green.

buck choy

The darker green one is tender and has a subtle sweetness. The lighter green one’s stems are slightly tougher and have a subtle bitterness. I like both, but the former is also good for the fillings of wonton and vegetable buns, making it more versatile.

It is getting chilly and is Fall at Chicago now. This means the gardening season is almost over. I am going to enjoy every bit of buck choy and other vegetables left in our garden until next year.

Tips & Tricks Making Red Braised Pork Meatballs Perfectly Every Time

Chop and grind ginger and green onion into a paste

Ginger and scallion help bring out the deliciousness of the pork. Since we are making meatballs, it is better to have them chopped or ground into a paste so it doesn’t stick out in the final meatball.

A compact food processor as a mini chopper & grinder becomes very handy in the kitchen.

Green Onion and Ginger Paste for Red Braised Pork Meatballs
Green Onions and Ginger Paste for Red Braised Pork Meatballs

Make sure you stir the ground pork in the same direction when you mix it with seasonings and condiments

Marinated Ground Pork for Red Braised Lion's Head
Marinated Ground Pork for Red Braised Lion’s Head

Use a bamboo spatula, slowly break down the meat, and loosely fold everything together. After that, swiftly turn the spatula in the same direction, either clockwise or counter-clockwise, for about 2 minutes, until the mixture fully blended and bonded.

Ground Pork Mixture Read to Make Meatballs
Ground Pork Mixture Read to Make Meatballs

It is the key to mix in the same direction. It helps the meat to bind with each other and gives the final meatball the spongy texture and yummy tenderness.

Create the meatball shape in hot temperature water

Before you prepare the meat mixture, first is to fill a stockpot with water and bring to a boil and then turn it off. When you are ready to make the meatballs, turn the stockpot heat back on to low heat.

Use two hands to form a meatball, and then gently place into the simmering, bubbling hot temperature water. The hot temperature will solidify the meatball surface.

Please make sure the water is simmering and bubbling, but not feverishly boiling. Adjust the heat among medium, low, and simmer just to keep the water bubbling during the meatball blanching process.

Blanch Pork Meatballs for Braising
Blanch Pork Meatballs for Braising
Blanch Pork Meatballs for Braising
Blanch Pork Meatballs for Braising

Braising Meatballs

Braising Pork Meatballs
Braising Pork Meatballs

Place the work-in-process meatballs in the wok, add 4 cups of juice from the stockpot, or until it barely covers all the meatball.

Braising Pork Meatballs
Braising Pork Meatballs

Add regular soy sauce, red yeast rice, and organic raw cane sugar. Turn the heat to low, cover the lid and cook for 15 minutes. Then turn the heat to medium-high, cover the lid, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Braising Pork Meatballs
Braising Pork Meatballs

Remove the lid, use a slotted turner to fold and mix the meatballs with the sauce and caramelize the meatballs for about 5-8 minutes or until the liquid in the Wok thickens and wrapped around the meatballs.

Red Braised Lion's Head
Red Braised Lion’s Head

Red Braised Lion’s Head Additional Cooking Tips:

You can use the same water used to cook & form meatballs for blanching the buck choy or other leafy vegetables such as kale.

Other Suitable Leafy Vegetables to go with Red Braised Lion’s Head

Kale is a versatile and nutritious green leafy vegetable we regularly have, especially during winter when we do not have access to the back yard garden.

I blanch kale the same way as I do with bok choy. They complement the Red Braised Lion’s Head nicely!

Red Braised Lion's Head with Kale
Red Braised Lion’s Head with Kale
Red Braised Lion's Head {Pork Meatballs 红烧狮子头}

Red Braised Lion's Head {Pork Meatballs 红烧狮子头}

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Red Braised Lion’s Head {Hong Shao Shi Zi Tou 红烧狮子头}, or Pork Meatballs, is a classic well-liked Huai Yang style dish. It features juicy and savory pork meatballs. Perfect to pair with a blanched green leafy vegetable and a bowl of steamed rice for a yummy healthy meal.

Ingredients

For Marinating:

  • 2 lb ground pork, preferably home ground, see notes
  • 2 eggs, organic or cage-free
  • 2 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. Shaoxing Wine
  • 1 tbsp. Zhenjiang Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spices powder
  • 1 tbsp. arrowroot flour
  • 12 slices of ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of scallion, finely chopped

For Blanching & Braising:

  • 3 Qt. of water for blanching meatballs, see notes
  • 4 tbsp. naturally aged soy sauce, or dark soy sauce, see notes
  • 1 tbsp. organic sugar in the raw, see notes
  • 1 tbsp. ground red yeast rice, see notes
  • 1 stalk of green onion, chopped, for garnishing

For the vegetables:

  • 2 bok choy or 6 stems of kale
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt

Instructions

  1. Chop green onions and ginger in a compact grinder into a paste-like mixture
    Green Onion and Ginger Paste for Red Braised Pork Meatballs
  2. Fill a 4 Qt stockpot with about 75% water, bring to a boil and then turn it off.
  3. Crack and whisk the eggs well in a mixing bowl, add everything under "For Marinating" along with the green onions and ginger paste.
    Marinated Ground Pork for Red Braised Lion's Head
  4. Use a bamboo spatula to gently break down pork and fold into seasonings and condiments until blended
  5. Swiftly turn the spatula in the same direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise, until the mixture is fully blended and bonded. See notes.
    Ground Pork Mixture Read to Make Meatballs
  6. Turn the heat back on for stockpot and leave on medium. See notes.
  7. Scoop out one meatball portion of the ground pork mixture, use two hands to form a loose meatball, and then gently place it into the stockpot.
    Blanch Pork Meatballs for Braising
  8. Gently move the meatball in the water to ensure it doesn't stick in the bottom of the pot
  9. Repeat the above step to continue blanching the meatballs.
  10. Use a spider skimmer, remove a couple of meatballs at a time from the stockpot when they are solidified. Place them into a Wok for braising later.
    Blanch Pork Meatballs for Braising
  11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 until you've completed all meatballs blanching.
  12. Add all work-in-process meatballs into the wok, add juice from the stockpot until it barely covers all the meatball, about 3 1/2 cups.
    Braising Pork Meatballs
  13. Add regular soy sauce, red yeast rice, and sugar into the wok, turn the heat to low, cover the lid and cook for 15 minutes.
    Braising Pork Meatballs
  14. Remove the lid, fold the meatballs with the surrounding juice to make sure they are evenly cooked and braised. Turn the heat to medium-high, cover the lid and cook for another 15 minutes.
    Braising Pork Meatballs
  15. Remove the lid, use a slotted turner to fold and turn the meatballs and mix them with the remaining liquid in the wok. Until the liquid in the wok thickens and wrapped around the meatballs, about 5 minutes.
  16. Turn off the heat, and garnish with the chopped green onions.
    Cooking Red Braised Lion's Head (Pork Meatballs)
  17. Bring the stockpot back to a boil, add bok choy or kale, blanch for about 1 minute
  18. Use a skimmer to remove bok choy from the stockpot, and place onto a large plate, sprinkle with the salt and drizzle with sesame oil, mix well using a pair of chopsticks.
  19. Add meatballs onto the bed of bok choy.
    Red braised Lion's Head (Pork Meatballs)
  20. All done. Enjoy!

Notes

  • For store-bought ground pork, try to get the fresh quality meat having a lean meat level of about 70%. You need some fatty port for juicy meatballs.
  • It is the key to mix ground pork with seasonings in the same direction. It helps the meat to bind with each other and give the final meatball the spongy texture and yummy tenderness.
  • When solidifying the meatball surface in the hot temperature water, please make sure the water is at simmering boiling but not feverishly boiling state.
  • If you have a 4 Qt. stockpot, it is great for making 2 lb. meatballs. Fill the stockpot with 75% water, about 3 Qt.
  • You can use the same water used to blanch and solidify meatballs for blanching the buck choy.
  • Don't let the broth left in the stockpot get wasted, make a quick & delicious egg drop soup out of it.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 servings Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 540Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 139mgSodium: 1109mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 38g

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

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Leave a Comment

You may also like

Skip to Recipe