Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rolled/Stuffed Cabbage a.k.a. ロールキャベツ

Japan is all about food. And not just Japanese food.

Japanese people love every kind of cuisine - as long as it's not too spicy, that is.
Where Americanizing a certain cuisine means upping the sugar and grease, Japanizing a cuisine means making it less hot and less spicy.

But that doesn't mean is less tasty. I've had French people tell me that French food is better in Japan than it is in France.


There are several European dishes that are so popular in Japan, that you could call it a 'Japanese dish.' Or maybe 'Japanized European dishes.'

First, you have the omelette-  "omuretsu" in Japanese; hamburg steak - "hambaagu"; and then you have rolled cabbage - "rooru kyabetsu." There's plenty more, like custard pudding and such, but I'm keeping the list short for simplicity's sake.

All of these dishes have somehow been Japanized so to speak..or rather, Japanese versions of them were created. Take "omrice" for example - it's omelette but with chicken rice wrapped inside. Or Japanese-style hamburg steak, where instead of demi-glace or tomato sauce, it's topped with shredded daikon radish and ponzu. I'm not exactly sure what's so Japanese about this stuffed cabbage dish, but it's one of those family favorites :) Hope you enjoy it.

Rolled/Stuffed Cabbage, Japanese style

For the rolls:
1 head of cabbage
a little less than 1 pound of meat (beef, pork, veal, buffalo, or your choice of red meat)
1 egg
1 medium onion
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground clove (feel free to replace allspice + clove with 1 tsp ground nutmeg)
salt & pepper to taste

For the sauce:
2, 3 cups stock (water + a consomme cube is fine too)
1 tomato
1 tbsp demi-glace sauce (you can substitute with oyster sauce)
1 tbsp ketchup (I use the organic stuff from Whole foods - tomato puree works too)
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tarragon vinegar (cider vinegar or white wine vinegar is fine as well)
2 tbsp wine (red or white either is fine, dry vermouth or sake works too)

1. Fill a small pot with water and boil. While waiting for the water to boil, mince the onion and prepare a large ice bath.
2. Carefully* pry the leaves off of the cabbage (6~8 leaves) and plop one at a time into the boiling water. Add a pinch of salt to the water to bring out the color of the cabbage. *Try to remove the leaves so that it's in one piece, and there are as few rips in it as possible.
3. Once the cabbage is translucent or pliable enough to roll, remove from the water and dunk in the ice bath. Once cool, transfer the cabbage leaf to a sieve to let any excess water drain off. Repeat.
4. While you are waiting for the cabbage leaves to boil, put the meat, egg, and spices into a medium bowl. Saute the minced onion with a bit of salt and olive oil until the onion is translucent and slightly browned.
5. Let the onion cool, then mix together with the rest of the stuffing ingredients.
6. Divide the stuffing amongst the cabbage leaves and roll each cabbage leaf into a small package by folding in the sides and rolling up. Secure the roll with a toothpick or silicone band as shown in the image.
7. Heat olive oil in a large pot (large enough to fit all the stuffed cabbage in one layer), and sear the stuffed cabbages on both sides.
8. Once the rolls are browned, add all the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to low, and let simmer for about an hour. If you have a pressure cooker, you can cook it for just 15 minutes under 15lbs of pressure instead.

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