You mean to tell me that you’re going to make comically, cartoonishly, large meatballs and not put one on a plate of spaghetti? 

Serves 4


Lion’s Head Meatballs (below), without their broth

  • 1 (16-ounce) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    TST- Kung Food- Book Cover Kung Food Jon Kung
  • 7 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, minced

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot chili powder

  • Kosher salt

  • 3 sprigs basil

  • 12 ounces dried spaghetti

Prepare the meatballs up to the point when they would go into the broth and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

Empty the can of tomatoes into a large bowl and crush them well with your hands, then fill the can with water and add that to the bowl as well; set aside.

In a very large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cumin, let them sizzle for 30 seconds, until fragrant, then add the tomato mixture, oregano, and cayenne and cook for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down and the sauce becomes a uniform texture. Taste and season with salt.

Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until cooked through. In the last few minutes, tear the basil leaves and add them to the pan.

As the sauce cooks, cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Use tongs to toss gently, letting the pasta absorb the sauce for about a minute. Serve immediately.



  • 2 pounds ground pork

  • 1 (12- to 14-ounce) block extra-firm tofu, finely crumbled with your hands

  • 5 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and minced, or canned water chestnuts, rinsed, drained, and brunoised

  • 1 bunch scallions, white parts only, sliced very thin

  • ¼ cup minced napa cabbage

  • 2 thumb-size pieces fresh ginger, peeled and grated

  • 4 garlic cloves, grated

  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons Five-Spice Powder or use store-bought

  • Neutral oil, for frying 

Make the meatballs: In a large bowl using clean hands, combine the pork, tofu, water chestnuts, scallions, cabbage, ginger, garlic, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and five-spice until everything is very well combined. 

Fill a wok with oil to a depth of 3 inches and heat over medium-high heat to 350°F.

Form the meat mixture into 12 equal-size balls and then gently, using a ladle, place them into the hot oil and fry until browned. Don’t try to cook them all the way through—you just want a firm outer layer for now. Set aside on a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain.

Reprinted with permission from Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third-Culture Kitchen by Jon Kung © 2023. Photographs © 2023 by Johnny Miller. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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