Autumn is in the air because it was chilly the other night. It’s a sign for me to start simmering stews like Japanese Cabbage Rolls. I was inspired to cook this old-favorite from the abundance of cabbage in the market.
The difference between Japanese Cabbage Rolls and the American-style one is that rice is not added to the filling of the Japanese version. I cooked this inspired by a recipe from Just One Cookbook’s Namiko Chen.
I have been cooking Cabbage Rolls in tomato sauce for as long as I can remember. It was a recipe my Mom used to cook and I remember seeing her large cauldron, simmering low and slow on the stovetop. Nowadays, I have different, more efficient ways to cook Cabbage Rolls aside from the stovetop: in the slow cooker, and lately in the Instant Pot. For the meat filling, I used Panko bread crumbs and flour as binders. You can use regular bread crumbs, too. The rest of the seasonings are probably in your pantry, or within reach.
To be honest, this isn’t a meal to cook for a busy weeknight. But, on Sundays, you can make this dish ahead, and warm it up for dinner the rest of the week. Once cooked, the silky, soft texture of the cabbage leaves, encasing the savory, hearty beef filling is comfort food you get to serve as an all-in-one meal to the family. And simmered in the sweet, fragrant tomato sauce-base, then it is simply intensely satisfying. We, Filipinos love to serve this with a bowl of steamed rice, and that completes this delightful, vegetable and meat meal.
Japanese Cabbage Rolls - Instant Pot + Stovetop
- Instant Pot Multicooker - 6 or 8 quarts - if using a multicooker
- Large stockpot - if cooking stovetop
- Slow cooker (Crockpot) - if cooking with a slow cooker
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 whole medium-sized onion, chopped fine
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 whole egg
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ cup Panko bread crumbs; or use regular bread crumbs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 whole cabbage, or about 12 whole leaves
- water, for blanching
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 can (14. 5 g) diced tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon white wine
- 1 ½ to 2 cups soup stock; chicken or vegetable
- 2 whole bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- steamed rice
To prepare Cabbage:
- In a large stockpot, over high heat, boil about 2 quarts water, or enough to cover the cabbage.When water boils, add and submerge the entire cabbage head. Some leaves will start to peel off after 5 minutes. By then, remove the cabbage, using a pair of long tongs or two large cooking spoons. Place cabbage on a chopping board. When cabbage has cooled, carefully remove each leaf. You should have about 12 whole pieces.Using a sharp knife, remove the middle vein of the leaf, which is thick and tough. Set the veins aside, and chop them to include with the filling.Set the leaves aside to cool down.
To prepare the Filling:
- In a large bowl, mix together the ground meat, onions, egg, flour, bread crumbs, soy sauce, salt and pepper. If desired, add the chopped veins from the leaves.Set aside in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes, for easier handling.
To wrap the Cabbage Rolls:
- Take one whole cabbage leaf and lay it flat on a chopping board. Place about 2 tablespoons of the beef filling in the center. Wrap the cabbage roll like a burrito. Roll it away from you, tuck the left and right sides inwards. Repeat process for the rest of the cabbage rolls. You can either tie these rolls with butcher string or leave them untied, but be sure to place them downward with the seam side under, inside the pot. (Note: My Mom used to seal the edges with a toothpick or tied them with butcher's string so they won't unravel while cooking. The toothpicks or strings were removed after cooking, and before serving).
To cook on the stovetop: (option 1)
- Use the same large stockpot for blanching the cabbage. Rinse and dry with paper towels.Over medium-high heat, add the oil. When oil is hot, saute the garlic. Place the cabbage rolls inside the stockpot, side by side, nestled close, leaving no space in between.Add the diced tomatoes, and bay leaves. Pour the wine and soup stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with rice.
To cook in the Instant Pot (option 2)
- Click on the Saute button on the keypad.Pour the oil. When oil is hot in 2 minutes, saute the garlic for 1 to 2 minutes.Turn off the Saute function by clicking Cancel.Add the cabbage rolls into the inside pot, side by side, nestled next to one another.Add the diced tomatoes and bay leaves. Pour the white wine, and soup stock. Season with salt and pepper.Cover and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing.Click on Manual + High Pressure + 22 minutes.When buzzer sounds to announce cooking is done, do a Natural Release. Carefully unlock and open the lid. Set lid on a dry safe surface of counter.Use a long cooking spoon to carefully remove the cabbage rolls and plate on a platter. Serve warm with rice.
To cook in a slow cooker (Crock Pot) - [option 3]
- Pour oil in bottom of the pot. Add garlic.Place the cabbage rolls side by side inside the pot. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Pour the white wine, and soup stock (2 cups if using a slow cooker). Season with salt and pepper. Cook on Low for 6 to 7 hours. When done, serve warm with rice.
Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided in the recipe links is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
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