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Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Lion’s Head Venison Mushrooms with Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms
Photo by Larry White

Servings: Four, 4oz meatballs and about 1 quart of pickled mushrooms

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

The lion's head meatball is an oversized Asian style meatball that originated in Shanghai and gets its unique name from "you guessed it", their size.

They were originally made with pork with a high fat content, but I've replaced the pork for venison with a fat percentage of about 25%.

The traditional way of cooking them is in a clay pot with the addition of bok choy. I decided to omit the bok choy and serve them along side soy sauce quick pickled shiitake mushrooms. I like to plate these up in the style of a noodle salad using rice noodles. I also like to have various garnishes (listed below) and lettuce cups at the table in order to make lettuce wraps.

Cooks Notes:

  • The pickled mushrooms can be made as far as a couple weeks in advance. They are stored in the refrigerator and will keep for 1 month and sometimes a little longer.

  • If you can't get your hands on any fresh shiitakes, dried shiitakes work great. You just need to hydrate them in hot water. They also make a great mushroom stock or powder.

  • This recipe works with straight pork as well without the addition of venison.

  • Keep in mind that if you use ground venison with a fat content of less than 20%, your odds of having a dry meatball are much higher. Regardless of fat content, try and not to overcook the meatballs.

  • Don't throw out your picking liquid. It can be used to make sauces or dressings. Its also good to spoon over the meatballs.


For the meatballs

  • 1 pound ground venison (20 to 30% pork fat content)

  • 5 scallions, thinly sliced

  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry

  • 2 teaspoons honey

  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger

  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon togarashi seasoning

  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour

  • 1 egg white

  • olive oil (for searing the meatballs)

  • 3 cups stock, chicken or venison

For the soy sauce pickled shiitakes (makes about 1 quart)

  • 5 cups shiitakes mushrooms, stems removed

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled

  • two 2-inch knobs of ginger, peeled

  • 1 cup sorghum

  • 1 cup sherry vinegar

  • 1 cup light soy sauce

  • 2 cups water

Optional Ingredients for Serving

  • rice noodles

  • steamed rice

  • gem or butter lettuce

  • bean sprouts

  • cilantro

  • crispy shallots

  • hoisin sauce

  • sesame seeds

  • cucumber

  • carrots

  • chopped peanuts

  • chile sauce ( mae ploy, sriracha)


For the soy sauce pickled shiitakes

  1. Cut the mushrooms into 1/4-inch slices.

  2. To a pot, combine all of the ingredients except the mushrooms. Bring to a slow simmer and stir until the sorghum is incorporated. Add the mushroom slices to the pot.

  3. Bring the mixture to a slow/gentle simmer. Cook while occasionally stirring for 20 minutes or until just tender. Let them cool to room temperature.

  4. Discard the garlic and ginger. Add the mushrooms to a quart container with enough of the liquid to cover. Use any remaining liquid for sauces or dressings. The mushrooms are ready to eat right away or can be stored in your refrigerator for 1 month.

For the lion's head meatballs

  1. To a large bowl, add all of the ingredients for the meatballs (except the olive oil and stock). With your hands or a large spoon, stir the mixture until it is mixed thoroughly and is tacky too the touch.

  2. Form the meat into 4 large meatballs. They will naturally flatten a little due to their size and lack of breadcrumbs, which is fine.

  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Once the oil starts to shimmer and lightly smoke, add the meatballs to the pan. Cook the meatballs until they are nicely browned on all sides.

  4. Add the stock to the pot. Cover with a lid, leaving it a little cracked for steam to escape. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Flip the meatballs over and cook for another 15 minutes or until the meatballs have just cooked through.

Meet Larry White
Chef Larry White

Hey folks, I'm Larry. The recipes you'll find here are inspired by my years as a chef, travels as a hunter, and being a father. I cook from these experiences, so my food ranges anywhere from fun and creative to traditional and to what somewhat family style comfort food.     

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