With Memorial Day weekend comes the Boulder Creek Festival, and the Farmer’s Market has a very different vibe this day. It’s smaller and many regulars take the day off; some growers skip it all together. Among the visitors there’s more “see and be seen” and less buying than usual.
But the stalwarts are here, and Red Wagon Organic Farm has brought some very pretty bok choy indeed. Bok choy, or chinese cabbage, is related to common cabbage and also to the turnip (who knew?). But what to do with it? In many dishes the leaves are discarded and the stalk is used chopped, like celery, almost as an afterthought. The leaves, however, are delicious as greens, and the weather has turned cold and rainy… A famous Shanghai-style dish, Lion’s Heads, will fill the bill perfectly.
Basically a stew of meatballs (lion’s heads) and greens (lion’s mane), there are many variations of this dish. In some variations the greens are sautéed first and served fairly dry with the meatballs; I have opted for a brothier, stewier version.
Lion’s Heads – Shanghai-style Meatballs
- 1 bunch bok choy (about one pound)
- 1/2 pound ground pork and 1/2 pound 85% ground beef, mixed
- 1 Tb minced ginger
- 1 Tb minced garlic
- 2 green onions, minced
- 1 egg
- 4 Tb soy or tamari
- 2 Tb cornstarch
- 1 Tb toasted sesame oil
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
Chop bok choy greens crosswise in 1 inch strips, and chop part of the remaining stalks in 1/4″ slices. I used about half of the stalks. Whisk together soy, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Mix meats together with ginger, garlic, and green onion, then add 1/2 of soy mixture and the egg. Make meatballs. The classic dish calls for 4 huge meatballs, I prefer 6 to 10 smaller ones. Brown the meatballs on all sides in a wok or sauté pan. Choose another pan large enough to accomodate all the meatballs in one layer. Add the stock, bring it to a boil, then add meatballs. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, turning meatballs once. Add sliced bok choy to the liquid, drape the greens over the meatballs, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes more, allowing the greens to steam. Uncover, add remaining soy mixture, stir well, and bring to boil to thicken the broth slightly. Serve in bowls, with rice if desired.