Stuffed Cabbage (Because it’s Cabbage Season)

The wind is just howling out there. Last night, I was kept up until the uncivilized hours by the noise of it just whipping around the building, slamming against the balcony that juts out, catching on the corner. Being on the 16th floor is loud. I had no idea before we moved here. I’d always been a first or second (or 5th, at most) kind of gal.

Anyway, it’s still noisy this morning and I’m tired and it’s Monday.

It’s also grey and grim and cold, as is to be expected here at this time of year.  I really should get a stock photo for this, to put on every post between now and next April.

Here’s one:

Today’s forecast: dire, with a chance of grim extending to the weekend. Highs of meh, with a projected low of get me the hell out of here.

So I got it into my head that instead of hiding under the duvets and weeping inconsolably for the next 4 months, I ought to resume experimental cooking.  If I keep my eyes on the prize (like, cake?), I won’t have to look out the window.

Our winter is shaping up to be quite similar to previous ones here, where we mostly just go to work, hibernate, and emerge only for treks out to the markets so we don’t starve to death, or to restaurants to soothe our SAD-deadened nerves with food that someone else cooked for us.

Or, as the case was this past weekend, where we still have to cook it ourselves. Hello, Sichuan hot pot!

Tofu skins are the best.

As I may have mentioned before, it’s turning into cabbage, gourd and sweet potato season here. If you head up into northern China, you’ll find giant, round cabbages stacked like firewood in residential areas. Shanghai is less extreme, with slightly more dainty stacks of frilly savoy cabbage perched alongside forty kinds of bok choy.

All the veggie sellers out on the street are flogging a combination of those three staples, with bundles of cilantro or skinny celery as bookends. I intend to make the most of this bounty, although I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of any of them.

I put a call out to all my friends, asking for suggestions for what to do with cabbage, aside from sauerkraut. The Polish contingent in my life voted overwhelmingly for a) bigos and b) cabbage rolls. Lacking the sauerkraut needed for the bigos, I went for the stuffed cabbage.

But which version? Polish? Irish? A bit of both?

I ended up with a slightly muddled version, culled from the contents of the fridge. I realized too late that we were all out of onion, but that we did have chives. Practically the same, really.

What I threw in, randomly


  1. 1.5 heads of small, white Chinese cabbage
  2. olive oil for sautéing
  3. 1 head of garlic, minced
  4. 1 stalk of celery, finely minced
  5. 3 stalks each of chopped chives and cilantro
  6. 1 branch of chopped fresh rosemary
  7. 1 cooked potato, mashed
  8. 500g of lean ground beef (way too much, it seems, as I had a lot left over- I’d recommend going for 250g)
  9. 1 egg
  10. Several shakes of that odd pre-grated parmesan in the green container
  11. Salt and pepper, a few shakes of hot paprika
  12. Oh, and some marinara sauce. We caved and bought a can from the import grocery store. Usually we simmer our own for hours, from scratch, but given the cabbage roll project ahead of me, I could be bothered. Hello DelMonte Traditional!


The Process


I have no idea what ‘cleau Vegetalle’ are but they looked like cabbage.


It was at this point I realized we were out of onions so I cunningly disguised the celery as one.


See, I sauteed the celery with the garlic, as if it was actually an onion. A brilliant disguise. No one will ever know.


Blanch the cabbage for a few minutes in boiling water to make the leaves pliable enough to wrap around the meatballs. I was efficient and boiled the potato at the same time.


Drain the cabbage and let it cool, or else you’ll burn your fingers. Not that I learned that through experience. Oh, no. Definitely not.


Throw everything together- the fresh herbs, the hypothetical onions, the sauteed garlic, the mashed potato, the egg. Mix it all together with your hands. Remember acutely why you were vegetarian for 15 years.


My cabbage leaves were really small so I needed 2 leaves to wrap each little meatball. I made the balls about 1″ by 1.5″, a bit like kofte. Wrap them like mini cabbage burritos.


Put all your mini cabbage burritos in a baking pan or cake pan or casserole dish or whatever you have that’s appropriate. Make sure the edges are high enough for you to pour tomato sauce over the rolls without overflowing.


Happy times with cabbages!


Here’s the canned sauce poured over the cabbage rolls. Look at how smooth and shiny it is compared to my usual sauce! Also, note the Chinese foil behind it. It sucks. Don’t buy it. All it does it rip when you don’t want it to.


I put it in the oven on 180C for an hour, with about 40 minutes of that time covered in foil and the remaining 20 uncovered.

Look! It worked! I made nice things with cabbage!

If only I could just stay inside today and drink wine and eat cabbage rolls…

Hey, anyone want to swap my cooking services for full sponsorship? I’ll feed you if you take me to Mexico until winter passes…



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  1. Selly says:

    I’d offer you a couch in Dublin but the weather is just as grim as the weather in Shanghai. It’s also cold and wet and ice winds will freeze your hands off. But I have a lovely kitchen you can go crazy in and the supermarket is less than two minutes away.

    1. MaryAnne says:

      You know, I’m actually temped… if only Ireland didn’t kill my lungs in winter (goodness knows I’ve attempted numerous winters there, all bronchially devastating).

  2. mjskit says:

    That stock picture always make me cold when I look at it. Burrr! Great way to warm up with this cabbage dish. It really doesn’t need onion. It looks good without it.
    mjskit recently posted..Mushroom Garlic SoupMy Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      It did work well without onion. I’m so used to just using garlic and onion as a base for everything that I had my doubts about this… Happy to realize I was wrong!

  3. TracyAnn0312 says:

    It is really tempting to have it. I think that cabbage is a very good idea of food you have shared because it is not only cheap, but it is also good for the health.

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