With November being National Vegan Month, I thought I would try to showcase how tasty food can be without using any animal products. I ended up with a stuffed cabbage recipe that has an Asian feel — partly because Asian foods are a favorite of mine, and partly because I think vegan foods and the Asian diet have some natural affinities. If you use a wheat-free tamari or soy sauce the dish is also gluten free, in addition to being vegan.
The cabbage rolls are stuffed with a vegetable-packed fried rice and served with a sesame-soy sauce that adds a bit of zip. They make a great vegan main course or a tasty side dish for any menu, even a non-vegan one.
I always found prepping the cabbage leaves for stuffing a bit intimidating. Some recipes have you whacking out the cabbage core and/or submerging and boiling a whole cabbage. The technique I developed (see the recipe directions below) is much quicker. It makes the whole process easy and works well for any stuffed cabbage recipe.
Asian-Style Cabbage Rolls with Sesame-Soy Sauce
Large Savoy or green cabbage
4 Tbs. vegetable oil, divided, plus oil for baking pan
1⁄4 cup chopped onions
3 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1⁄2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1⁄2 cup chopped, peeled jicama
1⁄4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1⁄4 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped fresh shitake mushrooms
1⁄2 cup chopped cabbage
2 green onions (white and green parts), sliced into thin rounds
1⁄2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. of Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 cups of cold, cooked long grain rice
1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish
3 Tbs. soy or tamari sauce
2 tsp. chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbs. Japanese- or Chinese-style sesame oil
First prep the cabbage leaves: Score the bottom of the cabbage all the way around stem with a knife to detach the leaves from the stem. Pull off 10 outer leaves, making additional cuts at the stem if needed. (You may want to prepare a few additional leaves in case of rips and tears or if you have some leftover stuffing.) Place the leaves in boiling water in a large pot. Cover and simmer for four to five minutes or until tender and pliable. Drain and let cool.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-by-12-inch baking pan with oil.
In a wok or large frying pan, heat 2 Tbs. oil over high heat. Add onions, stir fry 1 minute. Add in garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes, stir fry for a minute. Add jicama, red bell pepper and carrots. Stir fry 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, stir fry 2 minutes. Add the 1⁄2 cup chopped cabbage, stir fry 1 minute. Add the green onions, salt and wine and mix well. Add cold rice, mix well and stir fry for 2 minutes, breaking up any clumps. Take off the heat. Stir in 1⁄4 cup cilantro.
Spread a cabbage leaf on a cutting board. Cut off hard end of stem. Place 1⁄4 cup of filling in the middle of the leaf. Fold the two shorter sides of the leaf over the filling. Fold over one of the longer sides, then the other. Place folded side down in the prepared baking pan. Repeat with other leaves until you have 10 stuffed rolls. Bake, covered with foil, for about 30 minutes or until the rolls are heated through.
While the rolls heat, mix 2 Tbs. vegetable oil with the soy sauce, chili paste, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil in a bowl. Mix well. Stir again and drizzle half over the cabbage rolls and garnish with cilantro before serving. Pass remaining sauce on the side.
Faith Kramer is a Bay area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit.blogspot.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.