Menu for Spring Festival Eve: Red Braised Lion’s Head
Updated 17:36, 17-Jan-2019
By Ai Yan
If you are not familiar with the Chinese culture, the “Red Braised Lion's Head” may sound like a raw, greasy dish of some brutal giants in fairy tales. How could such a dish appear on the menu of the Spring Festival, the annual occasion for the family reunion?
But once the dish is served, you quickly understand why it's so popular. 
The “Red Braised Lion's Head” has no relation at all with the giant feline. Instead, it refers to the feast-sized meatballs cooked with brown sauce. It is a typical way of cooking the so-called “Lion's Head” or the meatballs.
Red Braised Lion's Head /VCG Photo

Red Braised Lion's Head /VCG Photo

The “Lion's Head” was said to be invented during the Sui Dynasty (581-618) by Emperor Yang himself. While touring in Yangzhou city of east China's Jiangsu Province, the then most prosperous area of the country, the emperor asked the cook to invent four dishes based on four scenic spots of the area. The “Lion's Head” is one of them.
The meatballs are made of minced pork, half lean and half fat. Mix the minced pork with chopped spring onion, ginger, egg and other sauces for savoring, and make them into feast-sized meatballs. Then it is up to the cook to decide how to cook it.
Stewing, steaming and braising in a brown sauce are three most often ways of cooking it. Usually, the meatballs would be fried in heated oil until they turned into a golden color. Then it is time to braise it in the brown sauce mixed with spring onion, ginger, rock candy, verum, salt, braised juice and cooking wine.
After simmering for another 20 minutes, take the meatballs out, and pour some starch water into the pot to make the sauce. When it is ready, pour the sauce over the meatballs, and it is time to serve the renowned “Red Braised Lion's Head,” or “Braised Pork Ball in Brown Sauce.”
Stewed Lion's Head /VCG Photo

Stewed Lion's Head /VCG Photo

If you prefer lighter flavors, the stewed “Lion's Head” could be a reasonable choice. In southern Chinese provinces, people usually add hairy crab meat into the meatballs. The crab cream would be saved for the soup, together with spring onion, ginger and cooking wine.
Put the meatballs into a casserole, and let them simmer for about two hours. Then skim the oil slick before put in the fresh vegetables. While cooking in this way, the soup is pure white and has the taste of the fresh flavor of the crabs. It is also one of the preferred dishes for many.
If you are still pondering over the menu of the Spring Festival eve, why not give the “Lion's Head” a try? It won't let you down, especially for such an important occasion as the annual family reunion.
(Top image designed by Gao Hongmei)