Thai(ish) Stuffed Cabbage

Sometimes the culinary spirit comes over me at inopportune times — say, a half an hour before my parents (read: mom) expects dinner to be ready. I mean, is it really my fault that I still live in a house whose mealtimes are rounded up to the nearest early bird special? Maybe it is. There are apartments with vacancies, but what's life sans such exuberant geriatric entertainment?

Anyway, I was in the mood for stuffed cabbage, but not the kind that's all red saucy and acidic. I wanted something with a cleaner flavor that wouldn't be (night)shaded by Gisele and Tom Brady. That's when larb moo came to mind, specifically Chrissy Teigen's, because it's the only kind that I have ever made. So, I followed my instincts and decided to combine the two preparations into a Thai(ish) Stuffed Cabbage.

The resulting creation resembled a steamed gyoza dumpling. The best part about it was that the fat from all of collective meats cooked into the cabbage and made everything delightfully non-salad tasting. Unfortunately, my parents decided to order Chinese takeout and had gross Egg Foo Yung while I waited for my return on investment. Let this be a lesson that patience is a virtue, and that creativity should never be stifled by hunger.

Thai(ish) Stuffed Cabbage

Get These Things:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice, uncooked
  • 1 head savoy cabbage, core removed, halved
  • 1 lime
  • 1 2” knob of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, quartered then diced 
  • 1 chicken boullion cube
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 lbs ground meat - I used the unseasoned “meatloaf mix” of ground pork, beef, and veal
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp mint, chopped
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce for serving

Then Do This:

Make the Rice

Rinse the 1 1/2 cups of rice with cold water in a sieve until the draining liquid runs clear, without any remaining starch.  Add to a small sauce pot and fill the pot 3/4 of the way with cold water. Add 1 tsp of salt. Cover, and bring the water and rice to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, return the water to a simmer and let it continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, until al dente. Drain the rice in a sieve and return it to the pot. Distribute the grains evenly and cover them to steam for an additional 10 minutes. Finally, remove the lid and fluff up the rice with a fork.

Boil the Cabbage

Prepare an ice bath while you bring a large pot of water to boil. You may have to use two bowls for an ice bath depending on the size of your bowls. Drop the cabbage halves into the boiling water. Standby and remove the outer leaves in layers with tongs as they become tender, almost translucent. They will begin to fall off the head when they are ready to be plucked. Move cooked leaves to the ice bath until you hit the core. Reserve water from the pot in which you boiled the cabbage.

Once the leaves have cooled, move them from the ice bath to lay out on a paper towel until they are ready to be used.

Prepare the Filling

Zest one lime with a microplane. Cut it in half and juice.

Pulverize the chicken bouillon cube with a mortar and pestle. You can also do this in a coffee grinder or in bowl, using the end of a wooden spoon. If using a coffee grinder, be sure to wash it thoroughly afterwards or your coffee will taste like soup.

Add shallot, garlic, and ginger to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 cup of the reserved cabbage liquid to the pan. Stir gently to keep from sticking, for about 5-6 minutes. You want to the ingredients to be mushy and nearly burnt so that they can be squished into a paste. Once they reach this state, move the mixture to either a mortar and pestle or a bowl to be mashed into the aforementioned paste. Do not use a coffee grinder for this.

Add the ground meat mixture to the skillet set over medium-high heat. Stir, cooking for about 8 minutes, until it begins to brown. Add 2 tsp of the bouillon powder, the garlic, shallot and ginger paste, and continue to stir until browned; about another 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, stirring in the fish sauce, the lime juice, lime zest, cilantro, mint, and cayenne pepper. Add two cups of the cooked brown rice and mix well. Season with salt to taste.

Roll Up

Preheat oven to 400°. Lay out a cabbage leaf. Depending on its size, scoop 1-2 Tbsp of the meat and rice mixture into the lower center of the leaf. See below for this very special diagram that I made in Paint for further instructions.

1./2. Roll up each short end of the cabbage.
3. Roll up the bottom half to the middle
4. Roll it over once again so that the flaps are positioned on the bottom of the package.

Repeat for all of the cabbage leaves and pack them tightly into a 13x9x2 baking dish. Pour over one cup of the reserved cabbage water liquid and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes while contemplating the reasons why you need find your own apartment, or until the cabbage is mildly translucent. 

Xtra Pizzazz

Add two tablespoons of sesame seeds into a small, dry skillet. Roast over medium heat and toss occasionally until they are golden. Immediately move them to a plate or else they will burn. Scatter the seeds over the top of the cooked stuffed cabbage. Garnish with chopped cilantro and offer soy sauce for dipping. Serve with sticky rice, because rice is better twice. 


Analyze & Discuss:

Do the youths of this world even know how to draw a Superman S with the six-dot approach, or are they just too busy Snapchatting?