If you love Thanksgiving, you’re bound to love Lunar New Year too. The holiday is all about family, beloved traditional dishes, and copious amounts of food.
I’m not here to start beef with Thanksgiving -- as far as I’m concerned, we should have a big eating holiday every month -- but Lunar New Year has a couple extra things going for it.
(I’m writing from a Chinese perspective, but countries throughout Asia celebrate with their own traditions.)
For one, when you’re a kid, you get hongbao or lai see, red envelopes filled with money. You receive them from all the married people in your family and at a big party, you can make quite the killing. (This is fun in a different, more expensive way once you’re married.)
Second, Chinese culture is filled with food symbolism. Noodles are a symbol of long life. Fish is good luck because the word is pronounced the same as the word for abundance. Dumplings symbolize gold ingots. The more you eat, the richer you’ll be in the next year. Win-win.
I invented Lion’s Head in the Grass as a way to merge two symbolic powerhouses. We are entering the Year of the Pig, so pork is a must. Pigs are lucky animals and eating pork is said to bring strength and prosperity.
And with its plentiful leafy greens, cabbage represents wealth. This is why you’ll find jade cabbages in many Chinese households. Just make sure you point them inwards, or according to feng shui, your money will fly right out the door.
Lion’s Head Meatballs are Chinese steamed or braised pork meatballs. Stuff that flavorful pork mixture inside a head of cabbage? Lion’s head in the grass.
1lb ground pork, 80% lean
½ cup garlic chives, chopped (if you can’t find, can also substitute scallions)
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp Xiaoxing wine
¼ tsp white pepper
2 tbsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 medium head of cabbage
1 tbsp sliced ginger
Mix all the meatball ingredients together. Stir until just incorporated, making sure not to overmix, otherwise the meat will be too dense. Set aside and let the meat mixture come to room temperature.
Remove the core of the cabbage using a paring knife. Continue cutting into the cabbage, carving out pieces of cabbage. Once you begin seeing the layers of the cabbage, and you have enough room for leverage, use a spoon to scoop out the inside. Make shallow cuts into the cabbage with the paring knife, then remove the excess cabbage with a spoon. Continue until the outer shell of the cabbage is ½ inch - ¾ inch thick.
Fill the inside of the cabbage with the pork mixture. Pack lightly, making sure there’s still some airiness inside.
Boil a full kettle of water. You will need this as you replenish your steaming liquid.
Place a round pan grate in the bottom of your wok. Pour hot water to the level of the grate and add sliced ginger.
Place stuffed cabbage onto the grate, cover, and simmer on medium for 50 minutes. When the water gets low, refill with the water in your kettle. Serve in a bowl with your steaming broth.
TIPS & TRICKS
If you don’t have a wok with a domed lid, you can use a wide skillet and then cover with a foil tent. You can also use a lidded pot.
Ideally you should use a wok. I use the Hestan Nanobond Wok, which is wide and flat at the bottom (as opposed to narrow or rounded), which means better contact with my range’s flame. When compared to a flat lid, the domed lid fares better with moisture retention and air circulation. Plus, a domed lid is high enough to clear a whole head of cabbage. :D