Japanese Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

The first time we had some chicken rolls wrapped in cabbage at a family-run Japanese cafe, and thought it was one of the most interesting dishes we've ever had. Even my husband who's never been much of a fan of cabbage, liked it. The only bone I'd pick with it was that they were made a little too big, and I'm not a big fan of whole chunk of chicken breast meat although it's minced.

I did a little online digging to find out more about it and decided to have a go at making it myself, in which case I can customise the size, the ingredients and the taste.

The first time round, I blanched the cabbage leaves a little too long and they lost their colour; the second round was better and this is the 3rd time I'm making it. I shall think it's a charm 😆

Obviously there's a lot of customisation, and I'm sure that each Japanese family would have their own little signature way of cooking this.

The ingredients:
6 large cabbage leaves, washed and rinsed
Chicken mince, about 150g
Pork mince, about 150g
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Sage, a couple of small leaves, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soya sauce

The preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, pork, chopped onion and sage together. Add in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and some salt and pepper, mix well and put aside.
  2. Cut off about 1-2 inches of the thick end of the cabbage leaves (I keep the cut off bit for stir fry or put into my soupy noodle). In a pot or wok of boiling water, blanch the cabbage leaves for a few minutes each, fish it out and lay flat on a plate. Drain away excessive water.
  3. Spoon desired amount onto the thicker, white end of each cabbage leaf and roll the leaf to wrap the meat. Slowly fold the left and right sides into the wrap as it rolls up, just like basic wrapping process with paper.
  4. When all the 6 cabbage rolls are rolled up, place them in a heat resistant dish. Dribble 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and the soya sauce over the rolls and cook in the steamer over high heat for about 30-40 minutes. Stick a skewer to test: if it goes through easily, it's cooked.
  5. Sprinkle some ground garlic and chilli flakes (or whatever other seasoning one fancies) over and it's ready to serve (with rice or noodle).

The cabbage rolls I had in the Japanese restaurant were served in chicken soup, but I've also seen some people doing my way. I'm not much of a soup person and after steaming, the meat will generate natural light gravy at the bottom anyway.

As I've mentioned before, not a fan of plain chicken breast meat so I've added in some pork to give it more texture and taste. As for the sage, it's my habit of adding some whenever I make meat balls and the likes. There is still some meat mixture left, I could probably make some meat balls and have them with noodles... 😋


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