Most folks, if they’ve tried cabbage rolls at all, are more familiar with those of the Eastern European variety. These are typically seasoned heavily with paprika or garlic and served in a tomato-based sauce. They are delicious, and a great comfort food during the long days of winter.
For these, I went even farther east, to Asia. Spiced with the fennel, clove, cinnamon, star anise, and a Sichuan pepper blend commonly known as five-spice powder with a hit of ginger and chili-garlic, they warm the taste buds without overdoing it. If you need it spicier, sprinkle some red chili flakes or a hit of Sriracha over the top. Serve with ramen or udon noodles, mung bean sprouts, and a boiled egg.
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 medium onion, grated
1 cup diced Portobello mushrooms
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 lb. ground venison
1 cup cooked rice
1 tsp. five spice powder
1 Tbsp., plus ¼ cup, soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
½ tsp. fish sauce
½ cup water
1 tsp. chili-garlic paste
1 head Napa cabbage
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a casserole dish or 9×13-inch pan with non-stick spray.
2. Heat the canola oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the grated onion and diced mushrooms. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms give up their liquid. Add the fresh ginger and cook for 30 seconds.
3. Add the ground venison to the pan, and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it browns. Add the cooked rice. Add the five-spice powder and stir in a tablespoon of soy sauce, plus the sesame oil and fish sauce. When the ground meat is no longer pink, remove the pan from the heat.
4. Meanwhile, set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with water and ice. When the water starts to boil, blanch the cabbage leaves momentarily and transfer to the ice bath to stop cooking.
5. Pull a cabbage leaf from the ice bath and place ¼ cup of the meat and rice mixture near the stem end of the leaf. Roll, tucking the sides as you go. Placed the stuffed cabbage leaf in the greased casserole. Repeat with remaining cabbage leaves, or until the casserole dish is full.
6. Whisk together the water, reserved ¼ cup of soy sauce and chili-garlic paste. Pour over the stuffed cabbage rolls.
7. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cabbage rolls are cooked through.