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Lion's Head Meatballs

Lion's Head Meatballs

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10 small dried shiitake mushrooms
3 cups, plus 2 tbsp chicken stock, separated
1 lb ground pork
1 egg white
4 tbsp shao xing wine or dry sherry, separated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar, plus 1 tsp, separated
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp kosher salt plus more to season
pinch ground white pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light-green parts only
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tablespoons finely minced ginger
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
vegetable oil
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin coins
1 teaspoon black vinegar or Chinkiang vinegar
2 tsp cornstarch, mixed with 1 tbsp water
leaves from half of a small Taiwanese cabbage, leaves torn in half


Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup hot chicken stock until partially softened, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the pork, 2 tbsp chicken stock, egg white, Shaoxing, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, salt, pepper, scallions and minced ginger with a wooden spoon, mixing thoroughly. Form the mixture into 6 large meatballs.  Gently dredge the meatballs in flour.
In a deep, heavy pot (we used our trusty Le Creuset), add 1 inch of vegetable oil. Heat over medium-high heat. With a slotted spoon, gently lower 3 or 4 meatballs into the oil and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are deep golden brown but still raw in the center. Drain on a paper towel and repeat with the remaining meatballs.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a large, heavy casserole over low heat and add the soaked mushrooms and their liquid, 2 cups chicken stock, the ginger coins, 1 tbsp Shaoxing, vinegar, 1 tsp sugar and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a low simmer. Cook, uncovered, 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms have completely softened and the broth is fragrant.
Add cabbage and meatballs (you want to nestle the meatballs down into a bed of cabbage) and return the broth to a simmer. Cover the pot and place it in the oven until the meatballs are just cooked through, about 20 minutes. 
Arrange the cabbage and shiitake mushrooms in a shallow serving bowl and distribute the meatballs on top. 
Return the pot to medium heat.  Add cornstarch slurry to the mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, while the sauce thickens.  Add thickened broth to the serving bowl, making sure to spoon some over the meatballs.
Serve with white rice.

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