While there are actual Chinese recipes for cabbage rolls (I know cause I’ve seen em), this one is entirely made up. Really it’s inspired by a Ukrainean dish first introduced to me by Olia Hercules, a Ukrainean cook and author in the UK and one of my favorite food people! Really the only reason I call these Chinese is bc I’m Chinese….and I made them?
This recipe came to be because we had just harvested all of our cabbage in the garden and were up to our ears in it. We also had leftover potsticker filling so it seemed logical to marry the two together. Really, stuffed anything is a no-brainer but these are particularly great because they are a great way to use up some of those outer cabbage leaves, as well as the less tender leaves people tend to toss away. Cabbage rolls are also a wonderful vegan and gluten-free alternative to standard dumplings. The rolls in this recipe contain meat BUT you could easily omit the meat and substitute with more vegetables and maybe smashed firm tofu. The potato starch will help in holding everything together as it coagulates the excess liquid in the filling when it cooks.
Just a quick word of warning, I made these up on the fly and there were a few things here I forgot to measure. But even though I’ve estimated based on memory, the filling is the very easy to play around with. Much like with dumpling fillings, you should definitely experiment and make them your own. And as always, if you have any questions, leave a comment, email me or dm me on IG.
Steamed Chinese Cabbage Rolls
Serves 3-4, makes approximately 10-12 rolls
10-12 medium to large cabbage leaves, Taiwan flat cabbage or Savoy is the best but standard or even Napa cabbage will do.
1/2lb ground Pork, or any ground meat. We don’t eat red meat but I challenge someone to do these with (ethically raised and slaughtered) Lamb for a gamier flavour!
1/2 cup chopped Shiitake Mushrooms, re-hydrated first with boiling water for 30min-1hr, or until softened. Save the water then chop finely.
1/2 cup chopped Bamboo Shoot, I used whole bamboo but the strips in the can is fine. Chop finely.
1/3 cup, chopped Water Chestnuts, I only do fresh when my Mom is with me bc I’m completely inept at peeling them properly for some reason. Canned is just fine, but go for whole.
1/2 cup chopped Green Onions, saving 1/4 cup for garnishing at the end.
2T Potato or Corn Starch
2T Soy Sauce
2t Sesame Oil
Salt & Pepper
2 cup Stock– use some of the mushroom water to make up this measurement
4T Soy Sauce
3T Corn Starch, diluted with water to make a slurry
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch your cabbage leaves for 2 minutes. Drain (save the water for your plants!), plunge the cabbage leaves into cold water until they’re cool then drain and pat dry. Set them to the side.
Next mix all your filling ingredients together. First mix the meat and veggies together, then mix in the potato starch and seasonings. Use a fork to mash everything around and mix it thoroughly. You may notice that your filling doesn’t look as “meaty” as you might have thought. I prefer to consider the meat as a binder rather than the main ingredient-so it’s less like a meatball than you might have imagined. BUT if you prefer more meat, it won’t hurt to add more or to reduce the amount of veggies. If you add to my proportions rather than take away, be sure to adjust the seasoning.
Place a spoonful of filling into the middle of each cabbage leaf and roll into parcels by first tucking in the sides, then rolling from the bottom-up. The spoonful size can depend on the size of your cabbage leaf. Do what works for you and your “rolling confidence”. If you find yourself needing to be stingy with the filling to make cleaner, neater rolls, you can always blanch more leaves and make extra!
Place your cabbage rolls on a heat-proof plate in a steamer but do not pile them on top of each other, otherwise the liquid from the top rolls will ooze into the bottom rolls and make them soggy. Best is to either use a stackable steamer (as I have) or do them in batches.
If you use a stackable steamer, divide your rolls between 2 plates, place each one on a separate tray and steam them stacked on top of each other for 35 minutes. When done, allow to steam covered off the heat for a further 5-10 minutes.
If you have to do them in batches, divide into two and steam them each for 20 minutes. When the 2nd batch is done, you can pile the 1st batch of rolls on top of them and then give it a final 5-10 minutes covered but off the heat, using the steam to warm them back up together.
While they are steaming off heat for the last 5-10 minutes, mix your stock, soy sauce and sugar together in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower to a rolling simmer and dilute your corn starch with some water, mixing it well. While stirring the sauce, slowly pour the diluted cornstarch into it. At this point you can choose how thick you want your sauce to be. Watch as the corn starch thickens your sauce. Once it riches a consistency you like, you can stop with the corn starch. Give the sauce a good stir to make sure everything is dissolved then take it off the heat.
Transfer your cabbage rolls to a serving plate. I like piling them on top of each other because they look like little chubby hens in a hen house and it’s cute. Don’t ask. Next pour about half your sauce- or however much you want- over and around the base of the cabbage roll pile. Decant the rest to a pitcher or gravy dish to add more later. Sprinkle with green onions all over the top. We ate these as the main dish with rice (obvs!) and stir fried Chinese long beans in garlic. Enjoy!