Siskiyou Cooks + Chefs: Here's how to make Chinese lion's head soup (It's easy and delicious)

Lauri Sturdivant
Siskiyou Cooks + Chefs
Lions head soup is delicious and hearty.

Chinese Lion’s Head Soup (SHI ZI TOU, 狮子头) is a classic Huaiyang dish that's made with meatballs, Napa cabbage and broth. Huaiyang cuisine is one of the four major Chinese cuisines representing the culinary traditions of Eastern China and the Jiangsu Province situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The cuisine is slightly sweet and almost never spicy. Many Huaiyang dishes have stories behind them or are named after poets or chefs create poems around them. Some say that to be a Huaiyang chef one must have the heart of a poet.

Lauri Sturdivant writes the Siskiyou Cooks + Chefs column for the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and Siskiyou Daily News.

Sources say this recipe gets its name because the meatballs resemble a Chinese lion’s head and the cabbage its mane. Stone lion statues were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits. They stand guard in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, Imperial tombs, temples, government offices, and the homes of the wealthy throughout China.

This recipe is traditionally made with ground pork, but I used turkey. I might try a variation of this recipe with fish balls. To make this vegan you could use tofu balls or meatless balls with vegetable broth.

Traditional meatballs for this soup are tennis ball size. When dividing the meat try following Chinese traditions where the numbers eight and nine are considered auspicious. In Chinese culture the number eight represents wealth and good fortune and the number nine represents longevity.

This recipe makes four servings. Serve this soup with a bowl of steamed white, brown or cauliflower rice.


  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp ginger - minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 green onions - chopped - the white parts go in the meatballs and the green to garnish
  • 2 baby Bok choy
  • 4 clove garlic - minced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil - I used canola, olive oil is too heavy for this delicate soup.
  • 1 head Napa cabbage - chopped - use green cabbage if you can’t find Napa
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • Garnish with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, green onions and a few sprigs of cilantro or parsley.


Mix the ground pork, egg corn starch sesame oil, half of the ginger, soy sauce and the whites ends of the onion. Roll into balls and set aside. Wet hands will help you roll the meat into balls.

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Char the Bok choy by cutting it lengthwise into quarters then place on a hot grill or fry pan with no oil. When it has a good char, but not burnt remove to your cutting board. When cooled, slice on the diagonal into large bite size pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok or Dutch oven and sauté the cabbage until wilted, add minced garlic and stir for about one minute. Pour in the chicken stock and soy sauce. Bring to a boil.

Spoon the turkey balls and Bok choy into the boiling soup. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve hot with garnishes.