These cabbage rolls are made with raw filling. After the softened cabbage leaves have been filled and rolled, the parcels were simmered in broth with lemongrass, garlic, galangal and chilies.
Softened cabbage leaves? Yes. Raw cabbage leaves are crisp and hardly pliable, and they will break if you try to stuff and roll them. So, soften them first. You core a whole cabbage and boil it for about ten minutes.
To core the cabbage, use a thin pointed knife and cut around the core to loosen it. Pull it off, discard and your cored cabbage is ready to be dropped in a pot of boiling water.
The softened leaves can now be pulled off without breaking. But before you can fill and roll them, you need to trim each leaf. Use a sharp paring knife to shave off the thick hard portion at the middle of each leaf.
Then you take your filling and place a heaping tablespoonful at the center of a softened and trimmed cabbage leaf. You wrap and fold the leaf in pretty much the same way you’d make a spring roll. But because you can’t seal the edges with egg wash, the rolls are tied with scallions that had been softened in hot water.
And you just repeat the process until all the leaves have been stuffed and rolled, or until you run out of filling, whichever happens first.
Now, you will see kaffir lime juice in the ingredients list. Does it have to be kaffir lime juice? Won’t regular lime juice work? Sure, it will. The only reason I used kaffir lime juice is because the day I cooked these cabbage rolls, we had plenty of kaffir limes in the garden. It rained the previous night and I was literally picking fruits from the ground underneath the tree. But, yes, juice squeezed from regular limes will do the trick just as wonderfully. Even lemon juice will work although the flavor and aroma will not be the same.
Thai Cabbage Rolls
- juice from one to two limes (I used kaffir limes)
- cilantro to garnish
- lime wedges to garnish
Make the filling
- In a bowl, mix together the ground pork, shrimps, chopped carrot, scallions and shiitake mushrooms with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Prepare the cabbage and scallions
- Place the cabbage on a cutting board.
- Using a small pointed knife, cut around the core in the shape of a cone. Keep going until the core is loose. Pull it out and discard.
- Drop the cabbage into the boiling water, cored side down, and let the water come to a rolling boil once more.
- Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the cabbage for about 10 minutes.
- Scoop out the cabbage and dump in a bowl of iced water. When cool, place in a strainer, cored side up, and allow to drip for a few minutes.
- Carefully loosen the cabbage leaves to separate.
- Take one cabbage leaf and, using a sharp knife, shave off the thick portion that runs vertically in the middle of the leaf. Be careful not to shave too deep to avoid tearing the cabbage. Do this with all the cabbage leaves.
- The too small ones near the core, you may chop finely and mix into the filling. But that’s entirely optional.
- Plunge the whole scallions in boiling water for a minute then hang on the edge of the strainer where you’re draining the cabbage.
Assemble the cabbage rolls
- Lay a trimmed cabbage leaf on your work surface. Position it so that the thicker side is pointing towards you.
- Place a heaping tablespoon of filling near the center.
- Fold the thick side of the cabbage leaf over the filling. Then, fold in the left and right sides. Roll the cabbage leaf away from you to seal in the filling.
- Take one piece of softened scallion and use it to tie the cabbage roll like a parcel.
- Repeat until all the cabbage leaves have been filled and tied.
Cook the cabbage rolls
- Pour the bone broth into a pot. Add the lemongrass, garlic, galangal and chilies. Bring to the boil. Taste. Add fish sauce, as needed.
- Drop the cabbage rolls one by one into the hot broth.
- When the broth begins to simmer, set the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the cabbage rolls in the bone broth for 20 to 30 minutes.
Serve the cabbage rolls
- Scoop out the cabbage rolls and place in soup bowls.
- Strain the broth. Stir in the lime juice. Taste and add more fish sauce, if needed.
- Pour hot broth over the cabbage rolls.
- Garnish the Thai cabbage rolls soup with torn cilantro and lime wedges before serving.