Lionhead Meatball Soup

Enjoy these Shanghai-style mini 'lion-head' meatballs in a rich, earthy and sweet broth made with Chinese leaf and dried shiitake mushrooms.


  • 100ml groundnut oil, for frying

For the meatballs

  • 500g lean pork mince
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch of ground white pepper
  • 50ml Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp cornflour

For the soup broth

  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 5 dried Chinese mushrooms slices
  • 200g Chinese leaf, washed, quartered lengthways from leaf to stem
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 pinch of ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornflour, mixed with 1 tbsp water

To serve

  • 2 large spring onions, washed, trimmed and sliced, to serve



  • Put all the ingredients for the meatballs into a large bowl and stir to combine well. Using wetted hands, take a golf ball-sized mound and roll into a round shape. Put on a plate and repeat to make 12.
  • Pour the groundnut oil into a large wok or pan and set over high heat until a thermometer reads 160C. Put a meatball onto a slotted spoon and gently lower into the oil. Leave to brown for 5-7 mins until golden, then cook all the meatballs. To check if a meatball is cooked, push a skewer through and, if it comes out clean, it’s cooked. Lift the meatballs out, then drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper and set aside.
  • Add 1 tbsp of the hot oil to a clean wok. Put over a high heat, add the vegetable stock, 850ml water, the mushrooms and Chinese leaf, and cook over a medium heat for 10-12 mins. Add the meatballs and cook for a further 4-5 mins, adjusting the cabbage leaves so they wrap around each meatball – the meatball resembles the ‘lion's head’ and the cabbage resembles the ‘mane’. Season with sesame oil, salt and ground white pepper. To thicken the soup, add 1 tbsp of the cornflour mixture when the broth is boiling. Then turn the heat to low and garnish with the sliced spring onions.
  • Ladle a portion into soup bowls, spoon a meatball and with some Chinese leaf and sliced mushrooms, and serve immediately.