Asian Cabbage (Un)Rolls

I love cabbage pretty much any way you can make it. I also love Asian food pretty much any way you can make it. So this recipe was a slam dunk for me in the I heart food category.

Cabbage rolls, on the other hand … eh. They look pretty and freeze well and there’s something to be said for food that comes in bundles. It works well for egg rolls and burritos and lettuce wraps, but with cabbage, it has always bothered me.

In the first place, I’m not a big fan of the work. Large pieces of cabbage don’t really like to be rolled, so you have to stick the whole head in boiling water and sort of coax the leaves to separate. Even then, that big ol’ rib thing won’t play nice with the rolling, so you have to cut it out … blah blah blah.

I raised teenagers. I know how to pick my battles. I got no fight with a cabbage leaf.

boxing cabbage

So, driven by basic laziness, I decided there would be no rolling. And this is where I ended up:


For the (un)stuffed cabbages:

  • 1 head Napa cabbage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 cup cooked white rice
  • 1/2 mushrooms (whatever kind you like) finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (the recipe calls for more, but tend to be pretty sparing with sesame oil … a little goes a long way in flavor.
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • A 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup stock (you can use chicken or whatever you prefer … I use my own veggie stock)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (again, the recipe calls for a tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Sriracha or other hot chili sauce to taste … I use around a teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 400°. Clean the cabbage and give it a rough chop. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with a bit of cooking oil and lay down a bed of the chopped cabbage. Set aside.

Toss the remaining ingredients (except the ones for the sauce) in a large bowl. Mix it well. Roll into 2-inch meatballs and place into the baking dish atop the bed of cabbage.

Whisk together the ingredients for the sauce and pour over the prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

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