Chinese Lion's Head Soup
Maybe I should preface this note with the comment that I have a little more adventerous tastes than some. I have been to some ethinic restaurants where the wait staff asks, "Have you had that before?" or just say flatly, "You not like that." when I order a something that most Americans don't order.
There is a Chinese dish, "Lion's Head," which is basically a seasoned pork meatball or meatballs surrounded by shredded cabbage and simmered or steamed in broth. I've seen it in cookbooks more often than on menus. (You GOOGLE "lion's head" and get 60,000 plus hits and probably more if the search term is "Four Happiness Meatball Soup: which seems to be the name for the northern version of the dish.) The meatball is imagined to be a lion's head and the cabbage the mane. One of my favorite local Chinese restaurants has a hot pot on the menu that sounds similar and I tried it recently after asking if it was lion's head and being told "yes."
I was very disappointed. The cabbage I expected was all or mostly chopped leeks and too far up the green end of the stalk to be very good. There was a considerable addition of glass noodle and soft tofu and even whole mushrooms in the soup for - I am guessing - textural variation. Worst of all, there were several chunks of more or less fresh pork belly and the dominant flavor was the boiled pork belly.
Thinking about this, I believe I could enjoy the dish with more vegetables such as the glass noodle and mushrooms and even the substitution of leeks, But the pork belly? I have eaten Chinese and Korean versions of steamed pork belly several times and enjoyed the dish. I've never run into such strongly flavored pork belly before. As it was, it was on the edge, or past the edge, of being unpalatable because of the strongly flavored pork belly which had probably been held too long.
I would like to hear from others who have eaten "lion's head." Did your dish have pork belly? And a related question: have you ever ordered steamed pork belly and been served a bad piece of meat?