Lion's Head Soup ~ Shr za tou

An old T & T (tried and true) recipe; I've been making it for close to 25 years. The recipe comes from that huge coffee-table size book, loaded with gorgeous photos ~ "China the Beautiful" by Kevin Sinclair/The Knapp Press.

The soup/stew goes by the intriguing name of Lion's Head Soup (Shr za tou). In the book it is actually referred to as a stew, but I always call it soup.

Here you see it in a medium size serving tureen, which gives some idea of the size of those "lion's heads".
The original recipe calls for lean ground pork, but I've always made it with either ground turkey or ground chicken simply because lean ground pork is more difficult for me to find, unless I grind my own.

There are some variations of the recipe, but is generally made from ground meat which is seasoned with minced scallions, minced ginger, dry sherry and salt, then formed into very large balls (about 2 1/2 to 3-inches in diameter) and simmered in broth. I use chicken broth.
General amounts (you can vary according to your own tastes); For one and a third pound of meat; 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons minced scallions, 1 to 2 teaspoons minced ginger, 1 tablespoon dry sherry, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.

The cooking pot is layered with cabbage, the meat balls, and another layer of cabbage. Boiling broth is poured over all, enough to just cover the meatballs. The pot is then covered tightly and simmered on a low flame/heat for an hour and a half. You would think the meat would turn to unpalatable rubber, but instead it is melt-in-your-mouth tender.

By now, you may know that I sometimes take liberties with recipes and this one is no exception. I didn't have cabbage on hand so I cooked the meatballs in the broth as directed, I added a few sliced cremini mushrooms. When the soup was finished simmering for the I stirred in some torn red chard, and slivered snow peas (pea pods), then just garnished with carrot slices.
An important note ~ the last time I made this I simply minced skinless chicken breasts in the food processor, I don't recommend doing that for this recipe, the meat does need a little fat so I suggest buying your meat, as it usually has a little fat in it. I prefer turkey for this recipe, but chicken will do (as long as it has a little fat in it.)

It's a delicious soup; quite surprising that such simple and few ingredients meld into such a comforting, flavorful bowl of goodness.

This is the second soup I chose to make for our Saturday Darling Baker cook-along.

Our next event will be CUPCAKES!


  1. I LOVE the detail you put into your cooking. I saw the same style of carrots all over Japan. Not hard to do but makes the dish oh so much better.

  2. I also love carving carrots that way, an easy and therapeutical technique.

    Mari, I don't think I've heard of this soup, but I like everything that goes into it, so, it'll be another one for my files.
    Wish there was a way to tuck that pretty bowl into my files too [G]

  3. Did I just type: therapeutical?

    Mari, please tell me your blog has the self-destruct-in-5-seconds feature on active.

  4. It looks like a little garden surrounding the 'lion heads'! Just beautiful, Mari. The recipe sounds delightful. I'm sure I will try it soon.

  5. It is really cold here today and my fingers are freezing as I type...that soup is warming me up just looking at it!
    Thanks for the recipe!

  6. That looks delicious. I make a similar soup using chicken and instead of dry sherry I put a little sesame oil in the meat mixture. How do you cut the carrots to make them look like that? Do you have to cut each slice, one at a time?

    I made the Brie Soup last night and it was an absolute hit.

  7. Thank you for such nice words ~ They feel extra special on a Monday morning! :)

    Hi Greg, Susan and Linda~ *waving*.

    Sol, you crack me up ~ don't worry, spelling doesn't count on my blog!

    Hi Andrea, I'm so happy you liked the Brie soup. For the carrots, just peel it then (then I cut in half cross-wise), cut vertical "v" shaped channels down the length, remove the narrow strips, then slice the carrot into 'coins', voila ~ they look like flowers. :)

    Thank you again everyone for stopping by and commenting.

  8. What a great name for a soup! Love the addition of mushrooms to this.

  9. Good heavens! Your food photographs are absolutely stunning! Everything looks fabulous.

  10. I thought I had commented on this one earlier...oops, but just wanted to come back and tell you how much I enjoy your photos. They truly make me hungry...don't know if that's a good thing. Those carrots do make the soup fun looking as well as the very unique name. How neat that Greg saw the same all over Japan.

  11. I like how you cut the carrots. Adds a lovely touch to the soup.

  12. Mari- the soup sounds wonderful, but I just can't get over how "beautiful" that close-up of the soup is!! That should be on the cover of a cookbook! I love the carrots- how pretty is that?!!

  13. Sol,I am cracking up..

    It IS therapeutical!
    Mary..I never noticed you had round AND rect. covered small tureens..Beaux!

  14. Almost too beautiful to eat! Almost.

  15. Stunning! I have never heard of that soup and can't wait to make it. Thanks.

  16. I have never heard of this, but it sounds very intersting. Clarice

  17. oh darn i know i posted and as usual i must have forget to hit publish. you know, same ole, same ole from me: OMG mary stuff, cute, love the pics, fab, i want, feed me, gorgeous. just that kinda typcial post, then always signed your little stalker! which is so funny casue i am HUGE~

  18. I love the carrot flowers and the soup cup!


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