People throw out the term "melt-in-your-mouth" pretty casually, but these meatballs really are. Some people think the name comes from their large size, while others believe eating these gives you the strength of a lion, but the actual answer is not quite as mythical. The look of this crinkled-up napa cabbage reminded the inventors of this dish of a lion's mane.

Recipe Summary

prep:
30 mins
cook:
45 mins
additional:
1 hr
total:
2 hrs 15 mins
Servings:
6
Yield:
6 servings
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Ingredients

6
Original recipe yields 6 servings
The ingredient list now reflects the servings specified
Ingredient Checklist
For the Meatball Mixture:
For the Cooking Liquid:
For the Garnish:

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Pour boiling water over shiitake mushrooms, and let sit until soft enough to slice, about 1 hour.

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  • Meanwhile, combine chestnuts and tofu in a large bowl. Add ground pork, green onions, garlic, and ginger. Pour in rice wine, soy sauce, salt, cayenne, brown sugar, and egg. Dust with cornstarch. Mix with a clean hand until thoroughly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

  • Form mixture into 6 large meatballs with wet hands.

  • Set an oven rack about 8 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven's broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and oil lightly. Place meatballs on the prepared baking sheet.

  • Broil in the preheated oven until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while prepping the pot.

  • Trim off the bottom of the head of cabbage and slice 1/2 of the head. Arrange sliced cabbage on the bottom of a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Arrange the remaining leaves on the top. Slice and scatter the mushrooms on top of the cabbage; reserve shiitake liquid. Nestle the meatballs into the cabbage leaves and pour juices over.

  • Strain reserved shiitake liquid into a bowl. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, brown sugar, and cornstarch. Whisk until dissolved. Add to the pot, pouring over each meatball. Bring to a boil over high heat.

  • Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and raise heat to medium-high. Continue cooking, basting the meatballs often, until liquid reduces slightly and meatballs are no longer pink in the centers, about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

  • Ladle into serving bowls and arrange cabbage over the meatballs. Top with green onions and chili oil.

Chef's Notes:

If you can't find dried shiitake mushrooms, feel free to use fresh, but be sure to saute them first. You can use rice wine instead of sherry, if you like.

A few tablespoons of a cornstarch slurry can be stirred in at the end for a thicker "sauce." Just mix 2 tablespoons water with 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

You can also brown the meatballs in a 475-degree (245 degrees C) oven, instead of broiling.

To make your own hot chili oil for garnish, crush 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes with vegetable oil in a mortar and pestle and let sit for 3 hours to overnight.

This can be served as-is, or with noodles added to the bowl.

Nutrition Facts

315 calories; protein 20.6g; carbohydrates 18.5g; fat 18.1g; cholesterol 82.1mg; sodium 1607.8mg. Full Nutrition
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Reviews (18)

Read More Reviews

Most helpful positive review

Rating: 5 stars
12/09/2019
This recipe was surprisingly delicious. I usually make Swedish meatballs, which while delicious are very rich and something you can’t eat too much of. The meatballs in this, on the other hand, are extremely light. I actually went back for seconds. Cooking was easy as well. I reduced the liquids down for 25 minutes rather than 10 as I like it slightly thicker, and the meatballs weren’t anywhere near being overcooked. Highly recommended. Read More
(6)

Most helpful critical review

Rating: 3 stars
01/27/2020
Had high of expectations for this dish. Perhaps because of that it was bound to disappoint and it did. Meatballs were good but not 'mouth-watering' or even close. And it was a lot of work with some exotic ingredients that will unlikely be used again before having to be thrown away. Dish was tasty enough (tho a bit salty..more brown sugar?) but won't make again for those reasons. Read More
22 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 20
  • 4 star values: 1
  • 3 star values: 1
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 0
Rating: 5 stars
12/08/2019
This recipe was surprisingly delicious. I usually make Swedish meatballs, which while delicious are very rich and something you can’t eat too much of. The meatballs in this, on the other hand, are extremely light. I actually went back for seconds. Cooking was easy as well. I reduced the liquids down for 25 minutes rather than 10 as I like it slightly thicker, and the meatballs weren’t anywhere near being overcooked. Highly recommended. Read More
(6)
Rating: 5 stars
12/17/2019
Will make this again delicious and comforting. Low Broil didn't get my meatballs browned enough so next time I'll put it on high despite the smoke. A squeeze of siracha sauce on top brought it all together. Read More
(2)
Rating: 5 stars
12/12/2019
I made it as per recipe the first time and then i got creative. I made the second batch with a pound of ground salmon and i tweeked the broth with miso and hondashi skipping the soy sauce - outstanding! Read More
(2)
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Rating: 5 stars
12/26/2019
Simply delicious! it gave me a chance to use some tofu I had... Read More
(2)
Rating: 5 stars
01/18/2020
I love this recipe! Thought it was very fun to make as the ingredients were different from ones I usually use. Love the water chestnuts to provide the crunch. Juice was incredible!! I even bought a bottle of Sake to use in it. I'll make this again for sure. Read More
(2)
Rating: 5 stars
12/20/2019
Easy, delicious and inexpensive. Lazy Girl served it over ramen for a complete meal. We loved the Napa Cabbage. I used drained tofu and that was the way to go. Next time I'd dice it a bit more finely. I was cutting up a couple of on-sale Boston butt roasts to get pork for braising and pulled pork. There were bits and pieces too small for braising, so I trimmed and minced them up into my own ground pork. Not without effort, but less time than it takes to drive to a butcher. Also pretty much free. I had a package of wood ear mushrooms so added them to the other ingredients. I think they made a nice addition, but wouldn't make a special effort to include them in the future. I have to watch my calories during the day to be able to eat Chef John's dinners. I will absolutely use the shitake/chicken broth to make super low cal chicken/shrimp and vegetable soups for my lunches. Very flavorful. Read More
(2)
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Rating: 5 stars
12/14/2019
Excellent flavor! I didn't squeeze water from the tofu so meatballs were very wet. otherwise easy to prepare easy to serve Read More
(1)
Rating: 5 stars
05/24/2020
I grew up eating this dish and it’s very much a comfort food for me. I’ve tried several recipes trying to recreate this childhood favorite and this one is pretty solid. I’ve never put brown sugar in with the meatballs so I was a little apprehensive but the rest of the ingredients were familiar. They came out tasting great and the steps seemed more streamlined than other recipes I’ve tried. This will be my new go to! Read More
(1)
Rating: 5 stars
12/09/2019
I added a teaspoon of ground furikake to the broth. I do recommend! Read More
(1)
Rating: 3 stars
01/27/2020
Had high of expectations for this dish. Perhaps because of that it was bound to disappoint and it did. Meatballs were good but not 'mouth-watering' or even close. And it was a lot of work with some exotic ingredients that will unlikely be used again before having to be thrown away. Dish was tasty enough (tho a bit salty..more brown sugar?) but won't make again for those reasons. Read More
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