The other day Dorothy Cann Hamilton, the founder and CEO of International Culinary Center, invited me to her popular radio show, Chef’s Story, on Heritage Radio. “What was your favorite mother’s dinner when you were grown up?” “Rolled cabbage” It took half a second to answer this question. “My mother also made a delicious rolled cabbage! What’s going on here!”, Dorothy replied. When the interview airs, I will post it.
Ro-ru kyabetsu, rolled cabbage, is a dish in which cabbage leaf is stuffed with onion, rice and ground meat mixture, and rolled into a tiny neat packet. The dish was the product of the turn of the 20th Century in Japan. It is one of the Yoshoku dish (Japanized Western dish). I helped my mother many times in the kitchen rolling the cabbage leaves with stuffing into a perfect barrel shape and securing the end with a toothpick. At the beginning the leaves did not coorporate with me. They broke easily, making holes on my rolls. Patching them with another leaf made my rolled cabbage fat and ugly. Instead of firing me from this operation, my mother always encouraged me to keep doing it.
The other day after talking over the phone with my now 89 years old mother living in Tokyo, I felt urged to reproduce my mother’s ro-ru kyabetsu. Next day I prepped everything proper, except cabbage leaves. The leaves are torn here and there to the extent that I could not use them to make the proper dish. It is not an excuse, but the cabbage was not the right type to start with. Right type cabbage has a flat head and leaves are straight. You can separate one leaf from the head after another easily. Or, blanching makes peeling of the leaves even easier. My cabbage was round like a voeeyball, and, had wavy leaves. To make it worse the leaves were tightly packed.
Then, a good idea jumped in. Why not making un-rolled ro-ru kyabetsu? It is even easier. So here is the recipe to share. It was flavorful and delightful, and brought me lots of memories of my childhood. Good recipes and good memories should be handed over to anyone.
1 pound cabbage leaves, separated from the head
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup cooked brown rice or polished white rice
1/8 teaspoon all spice
Black pepper powder to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock
Home made tomato sauce for spaghetti
- To remove the leaves from the head, first remove the core and blanch the whole head in a simmering water in a large pot, until the leaf is firm-pliable and you can peel it off. Divide the cabbage leaves into 5 portions.
- Heat the oven to 350° F.
- In a medium bowl add the ground pork and the salt und mix until the meat is sticky. Add the onion, rice, all spice and black pepper powder, and mix thoroughly. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Divide the pork mixture into quarters.
- In an oven proof cooking pot (9 to 10 inch in diameter) place 1 portion of the cabbage leaves and cover the bottom of the pot. Pick up one portion of the pork mixture and evenly spread it over the cabbage. Place additional portion of the cabbage over the pork layer, and cover the meat evenly. Repeat the process until you finish using all of the cabbage and pork. Add the chicken stock to the pot. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid, transfer to the oven and cook 40 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the oven and cool to some degree the layered cabbage-pork. Cut it into quarters and divide them into 4 plates. You will find cooking liquid left in the pot. Add generous amount of tomato sauce to the pot and bring it to a simmer. Divide the sauce into 4 plates.