Turkey Lion’s Head Soup

Lion’s head soup is a traditional dish in the cuisine of eastern China. The name comes from the meatballs, which were said to resemble a lion’s head, and the added vegetables, which look like its mane. It is an easy, tasty soup to make and enjoy. Sweet potato lightens up the texture of these turkey-based meatballs, and flavorful minced green onions give them a little color. Mustard greens add a nice fresh touch to the soup. 


Makes 4 servings



1 small sweet potato (about 8 oz / 250 g)

1 large egg, beaten

1 lb (500 g) ground turkey (preferably thigh)

1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt, divided

4 green onions, minced

1 stalk celery, finely diced (see Cooking Tips below)

1 small bunch (12 oz / 375 g) mustard greens, thinly shredded crosswise



  1. Peel sweet potato and shred coarsely. Squeeze out liquid and place in a medium bowl.
  2. Add egg, turkey 1/2 tsp (2 mL) of the salt and green onions. Shape into 16 meatballs and place on a large plate or baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until well chilled, or for up to 24 hours.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups (1 L) water and celery to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add meatballs and remaining salt. Simmer, stirring gently once or twice, for 10 minutes.
  4. Gently stir in mustard greens and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until greens are wilted and meatballs are no longer pink inside.
  5. Ladle into serving bowls. Serve immediately.


Cooking Tips

Mirepoix is the French name for a blend of celery, onion and carrot that serves as a base for many soups. When a recipe says to cut vegetables “into a mirepoix,” it means they should be diced finely, into about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.5 cm to 1 cm) pieces.

Not feeling like soup? In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) avocado oil over low heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning often to prevent sticking, for about 15 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Serve with a green vegetable on the side.

Health Tips

This soup supports recovery from illness. Turkey is warming, sweet and drying. However, the mixture of neutral and sweet vegetables in the meatballs counters this drying effect. The flavorful mustard greens are pungent and warming – good for clearing phlegm from the lungs. 


Turkey Lion’s Head Soup


Source: Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine by Ellen Goldsmith, MSOM, LAc, DipCH with Maya Klein, PhD