Tuesday, November 3, 2015

China Town Cabbage Rolls

  I've only made cabbage rolls once before, but a Polish in-law served some at Easter dinner, and I forgot how lovingly filling they are. So I decided to serve them up to some friends for our weekly home-cooked meal, but with a little twist - think Chinese dumplings crossed with the classic roll. I added celery, scallions, bacon, thai basil and sesame to the usual pork and rice filling, forming pouches rather than traditional cylinders. However, some rituals must remain, as I'm sure my Polish relatives would agree, because it just ain't a cabbage roll without some red sauce and sour cream.

 Korean cabbage cooked whole
 Closer to the core the leaves aren't as pliable.

Simple tomato sauce
2 cans of diced tomatoes (800ml total)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 spanish onion, small dice
salt, pepper & sugar to taste

The rolls:
1 korean cabbage
2.5 cups short grain brown rice, cooked
2 cups chicken stock
1.5 lb. ground pork
4 celery stalks, fine dice
1 bunch scallion
4 bacon strips, diced
3 stems of thai basil, picked
2 tbsp black sesame seeds, toasted & crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp Chinese five spice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp + 3 tsp salt
 10 turns on a black pepper grinder
1 egg, whisked
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil + more for drizzle
Torn thai basil and sour cream for garnish

 I love thai basil, it tastes like cilantro and tarragon
 You can also use a spice grinder to crush the sesame seeds.
 First get the tomato sauce cooking. The longer is simmers the yummier it will taste. Sweat off the onions and garlic, when translucent add the tomatoes, stir, cover and let cook on low heat for as much time as you've got! When your time is nearly up add salt, pepper and sugar to taste and let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Set aside.

As the sauce is gaining flavour, start cooking the rice. I cooked off two cups of rice and had a tonne leftover. Add 1 cup of rice, the stock and 3 tsp of salt to a pot, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover until all water has dissolved. Set aside and cool.

Next prepare the cabbage leaves. I used korean green cabbage because of its flatter surface and therefore larger leaves. Remove and discard the core while keeping the rest of this giant vegetable intact - be careful! Place it in a large pot and cover with water and a sprinkling of salt. Let it simmer covered for about 30 minutes or until you notice the leaves loosening. Strain the liquid and let it cool slightly, but it will be easiest to pull back the leaves while warm. Lay them out flat to dry.
 You will have a lot of filling left over! Freeze and save for later or make cabbage roll burgers.

 In the meantime prepare the rest of the fillings ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients into a bowl except for the sour cream and torn basil leaves. Make sure the rice has cooled before adding. Scoop and roll the filling into balls approximately a heaping quarter cup in size. Refrigerate until you're ready to make the rolls.

To prepare the cabbage for the infamous rolls, I completely discarded the stiff stems from the centre of each leaf, then sliced them in half. One full leaf of cabbage will make one roll. Place one filling on a cabbage leaf halve. Take the other halve and tightly wrap it the opposing way to cover the open end of your first roll. Place on a tray seam side down. Repeat with each roll. 

 Pre-heat the oven to 400 degree celsius. Spoon a good amount of tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish with a cover. Place as many rolls as you can on top, drizzle with sesame oil, and lightly smear some more sauce on top. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes, depending on how pink you like your pork.

To serve, spoon some tomato sauce on a plate, top with a cabbage roll and some more sauce with sour cream on the side. Sprinkle a generous amount of thai basil on top.

I couldn't decide where to place the sour cream!

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