I don’t like to abuse the phrase “game changer”, but sometimes its use is warranted. And this Beef Japchae recipe is one of those times. Japchae is as ubiquitous in Korea as mac and cheese is in the states but it’s more versatile. Although it’s read more
As the weather finally starts to cool down a bit, we can look forward to spending time in the kitchen again and working on some comfort foods. This Stuffed Cabbage dish is a great project to tackle this weekend. Like Hambagu and Corn Potage, this is a Japanese homage to a classic westernized dish. It feeds a crowd, it’s tender and juicy, it’s make ahead, and it freezes beautifully; so let’s get into it!
What Makes this Japanese Stuffed Cabbage? It’s All About the Cabbage
This recipe is different from the European style stuffed cabbage that you may have had. It has a lighter feel to it, largely owing to using a more delicate green cabbage. Today we’re using Taiwanese cabbage which may be new to you. I think that one of the reasons why we Americans don’t eat more cabbage is because it’s so coarse and hard to chew. So it’s no surprise that the most common way to eat it is to slather it with a heavy creamy sauce in coleslaw, to mask some of that unpleasantness.
But Taiwanese cabbage is different, really. It looks like a flattened disk and it has leaves that are larger, sweeter, and more tender than the sturdy leaves in regular green cabbage. Raw cabbage is very popular in Japan and it’s often used in salads and as a garnish for fried foods. It’s believed that cabbage helps in the digestion of fatty foods, so you will see copious amounts of it being consumed at Ton Katsu (breaded fried pork) restaurants. You can find Taiwanese cabbage at most Asian grocery stores. Look for a large head because those leaves will make the rolling process much easier.
If you cannot find Taiwanese cabbage, you can use regular green cabbage. The best are large but light heads, which means you will not have densely packed leaves. Peeling off the leaves can be a nightmare if you have a very tight compact ball. Another option is to use napa cabbage, which will yield a slightly different, but incredibly delicious alternative.
Making the Stuffed Cabbage Filling
I start by finely mincing the veggies. It’s really important in any ground meat mixture, whether it’s meatloaf, meatballs, or stuffing, that the veggies be as small as possible. This way they incorporate more easily and fully with the meat and you don’t have chunks of veg falling out of the filling. Plus, it just has a better mouth feel where it tastes like beautifully seasoned meat, and not like a bunch of vegetables thrown in.
Now I know what you’re thinking…I’m just going to whip out the food processor and bang this out in no time. That would be a hard NO! The food processor will chop up your veggies yes, but it will also mash them and you will end up with a wet mess. So actually, now’s the time to whip out your knife and work on those knife skills! It does take a little more time, but you will be well rewarded.
Keep chopping and adding the veggies to a large bowl. Then we add some soy sauce and panko into the mix to give it a decidedly Eastern flair. Give the veggies a thorough mix before adding the meats. I like to add minced bacon because the rich and smoky flavor plus the added fat give the filling a lushness that’s so delicious.
The easiest way to mix everything together is to use your hands. Ground meat is wet and heavy so your hand is the best tool.
When all the little bits of veggies and bacon are thoroughly dispersed through the meat, put the filling aside.
Prep the Cabbage
Once you core the cabbage, pull off the leaves slowly and carefully, loosening them with your fingers first. Once you get to the center and the cabbage is the size of your fist, stop. I usually cut the remaining small head in half and tuck it into my pan with the cabbage rolls.
Stuff the Cabbage
Start by separating the cabbage leaves into two piles, larger and smaller. The meat filling will be wrapped twice, first with the smaller leaf and then with the larger leaf.
Repeat with the rest of the leaves and filling. You should have about a dozen or so rolls when you’re done. (If you have leftover filling and not enough leaves, form it into meatballs and cook along with the stuffed cabbage.) Place the rolls seam side down in a large skillet as you go.
Make the Stuffed Cabbage Sauce
All that’s left to do at this point is to whip up the sauce and cook the stuffed cabbage. This sauce is what I would call brothy. If you’ve had stuffed cabbage before, this will be lighter and probably less sweet than you’re used to tasting. You can use canned tomato puree, diced tomatoes, or whole tomatoes for the sauce-whatever you have on hand is fine.
If using whole or diced tomatoes, first puree them.
As you can see in my photo, I have an extra meatball and the leftover baby cabbage head in the pan. You too should feel free to add any leftovers to cook together.
Cooking this dish is very simple. Cover the pan and bring it to a simmer. Then lower the heat and cook for 40 minutes until the cabbage rolls are tender and the sauce slightly reduced.
This braised dish is so comforting on an autumn evening, you have to try it. Yes, it’s a bit labor intensive but the results are well worth it. Any leftovers freeze beautifully. Let me know what you think of this Japanese style Stuffed Cabbage. Leave a comment and tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
- 1 head green cabbage (preferably Taiwanese- pick a large head)
- 1 pound ground beef (bison or lamb are also great options)
- ½ large onion
- 1 carrot
- 2 ribs celery
- 3 slices bacon
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 14 ounce can tomato puree or 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 3 Tablespoons ketchup
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Peel the onion. Slice it into thin strips and then across the strips into a small dice. Chop the diced onions until they are a fine mince. Add it to a large bowl.
- Peel the carrots and celery and do the same, mincing them fine, and adding them to the bowl.
- Add the garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir with a fork to combine.
- Cut the bacon into very fine strips and again into a fine dice. Add the bacon and the ground beef to the bowl.
- Using clean hands, combine the ingredients, making sure the veggies are evenly dispersed throughout the mixture.
- Set aside the meat filling.
- Using a small paring knife, core the center of the cabbage and discard. Gently loosen the leaves from the base and peel off the leaves until they look too small to use (If the leaves are smaller than the palm of your hand, stop peeling).
- Set up a bowl with ice water and put it next to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium high heat. Add 5-6 cabbage leaves to the pot, gently submerging them under the boiling water with tongs or a spatula.
- Boil the leaves for 2 minutes and then transfer to the ice water for a minute to cool. Remove the leaves from the ice water and drain well.
- Keep boiling and cooling the cabbage until you have cooked all of the loose leaves.
- Place the drained cabbage on a cutting board and remove the fibrous center rib by cutting a skinny upside down “V” into the bottom of the cabbage leaf .
- Sort the cabbage leaves into a pile with smaller cabbage leaves and a pile of bigger cabbage leaves.
- Scoop a generous ¼ cup (you can also use a measuring cup) of the meat filling onto one of the smaller leaves. Fold the right side of the cabbage leaf over the filling and then fold the other side over the filling, trying to cover as much of the meat filling as you can. Roll to the end of the leaf.
- Take a bigger leaf and put the wrapped package seam side down. Again fold over one side and then the other, trying to cover the package evenly. Having the entire package double wrapped is ideal.
- Place the cabbage packet in a large 12” deep skillet, seam side down, and continue making packages. You should yield 12-13.
- Combine the tomato puree with the chicken stock, ketchup, sugar, and ground black pepper. Stir to dissolve the sugar. (If using diced tomatoes, empty the can of diced tomatoes, including the juice, and blend them until smooth first). Taste the sauce (canned tomato products and purchased chicken stock can have varying levels of saltiness) and add the salt if needed, adjusting the seasonings to suit your taste.
- Pour the sauce over the cabbage packets and tuck in the bay leaf so it’s submerged.
- Put a lid over the pan and bring the contents of the pan to a simmer over high heat.
- Lower the heat to medium, crack the lid open a little, and simmer for 40 minutes.
- Transfer the stuffed cabbage to a deep platter with plenty of the sauce. Serve immediately.
*If you run out of leaves, you can make meatballs and tuck them into the pan with the cabbage packages. Likewise, the ball of cabbage you have left after pulling off the usable leaves can be cut in half or into quarters if it’s kind of big. Tuck the cabbage into the pan as well and cook together with the packets.
*This dish can be made ahead and reheated the next day. It also freezes well.
Keywords: stuffed cabbage, dinner, beef, bacon, japanese
I firmly believe noodles should be their own food group, and Yakisoba is one of the most delicious ways I know to enjoy them. As well as being endlessly versatile. Prefer chicken to beef? No problem! Have some veggies you need to use up quickly? Toss them in there! Yakisoba started out as street food in Japan, and is now so popular that every home has their own favorite variation. So feel free to take my recipe and make it your own.
While soba usually refer to noodles made from buckwheat, it can also refer to other types noodles in Japanese (confusing I know!). Like ramen, yakisoba noodles are made of wheat, water, and kansui which gives it the yellow color and distinct taste. I prefer to use pre-cooked yakisoba noodles, which is the most common. You can find them in the refrigerated section in any Asian food market. They come in packets of three, with dry sauce packets that I typically discard. They don’t need to be boiled, just rinsed under warm water to help them separate. This makes yakisoba a busy cook’s best friend as the noodles just get stir fried with the other ingredients all in one pot. Make sure to let all of the water drain after rinsing the noodles. You do not want to leave them sitting in water and getting mushy.
Yakisoba sauce is deeply savory and tangy. It relies on some common pantry ingredients that you likely already have: Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar. Just whisk it all up and set it aside.
I’m using Col Pabst Worcestershire sauce that my brother-in-law Bence will roll his eyes at because it is a handcrafted artisanal condiment from Wisconsin. But I don’t care if it sound pretentious; it’s glorious and makes food sing 😉 You can also use a Japanese Worcestershire sauce, like Bulldog, which is mild and more flavorful than American brands. If Lea & Perrins is what you’ll be using, add an additional teaspoon or two of sugar to balance the tartness.
Yakisoba is a stir fry dish, so you should have everything prepped before you begin cooking. Whatever meat you’re using, all your veggies, all ready to go and near the stove top. That way cooking is a breeze- the cooking portion of the yakisoba should take about 10 minutes.
I’m using beef, which I purchase already shaved so it’s very thin and cooks quickly. Start by heating a pan and then swirling your neutral oil.
Remove the beef to a bowl; it won’t be fully cooked because it will finish cooking at the end and we don’t want it over-cooked.
Then it’s time to stir fry your veggies!
I like to add some garnishes to my yakisoba, usually a little red ginger (beni shoga) and some powdered nori.
And with that your yakisoba is ready to be inhaled! Now that you have the technique and the sauce down, experiment with your favorite proteins and veggies. Are you like me and can’t get enough noodles? Check out our Noodles Archive for more favorites. Tell me what you think about this recipe by commenting below, and tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!Print
- 1 package pre-cooked yakisoba noodles (contains 3 noodle packets), or 1/2 pound thin spaghetti, or a 1/2 pound bag fresh wonton noodles
- 4 Tablespoons neutral oil divided
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 large onion, sliced thin
- 1 6 oz package shiitake mushrooms, cut into thin strips
- 1/4 head small cabbage, cut into large dice
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into julienne strips
- 12 ounces shaved beef (or bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces, or Japanese sausages, or leftover chicken, or extra veggies)
- 2 scallions cut into 1 inch pieces
- powdered ao nori (optional)
- 3 tablespoons red shredded ginger (optional)
For the Sauce:
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2–1/2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2–1/2 Tablespoons ketchup
- ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Put the noodles into a colander under the faucet and run warm water over the noodles to loosen the bundles. Set aside to drain.
- Put all sauce ingredients into a bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
- Heat a large 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp oil and the beef. Stir fry the meat, stirring occasionally 1-2 mins. The meat should not be fully cooked. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, another minute. Transfer to a bowl.
- Return the pan to the heat and add 2 Tbsp oil.
- Add the onions and carrots and cook for 2-3 mins until the vegetables are slightly wilted. Add the cabbage and mushrooms and continue to cook for another 1-2 mins.
- Add the noodles, the scallions, and the sauce. Mix the ingredients gently in the pan and cook for approximately 2-3 mins.
- Add the beef back into the pan and gently stir to combine. Cook for another minute or two, just so the beef is hot and fully cooked.
- Check the seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed.
- Mound the noodles onto a plate making sure that the beef and colorful vegetables are visible. Serve immediately either topped or served with the optional garnishes.
*If using wonton noodles, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Open the bag of noodles and drop the noodles into a pot. Using tongs or chopsticks, stir the noodles to separate the strands. Boil the noodles until cooked through but still a little firm, about 2 mins. Drain the noodles and cool under running water. Put the cooled noodles into a bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon of oil, and set aside.
*If using thin spaghetti, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Open the box of spaghetti and drop the noodles into a pot. Using tongs or chopsticks, stir the noodles to separate the strands. Boil the noodles according to the instructions until al dente (cooked through but still a little firm). Drain the noodles and cool under running water to remove some of the exterior starch. Put the drained noodles into a bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon oil, and set aside.
Keywords: yakisoba, noodles, japanese, asian street food