James and I love Eastern European-style cabbage rolls, and I had been tinkering around in the kitchen for awhile, trying to find a way to translate it to a Korean-style dish. I found plenty of Korean dishes that used cabbage similarly, in an abstract way. The main idea was to create a dish using cabbage leaves, stuffing it with meat and rice, and having an accompanying sauce. I automatically thought of bossam, a pork dish that’s enjoyed as a wrap.
I always find it amazing how we find similarities across cuisines. I noticed that I could take the components of a classic dish, like cabbage rolls, and change it around to reflect what I grew up eating at home as a kid. The first thing that had to be changed was the cabbage itself. I chose to use napa cabbage, as this ingredient reminds us of the soft and tender leaves of the cabbage that is paired with bossam. My second switch had to be the sauce; I couldn’t use a tomato-based sauce, and instead went with the standard pairing of pork and fermented shrimp. To bring it up a notch, I felt a funky dipping sauce would be nice. The result led to what I have below. It also seemed necessary to add some seasoning into the cabbage rolls themselves, as a plain rice, meat, and veggie mixture would just be too bland even with a dipping sauce.
Something I thought wouldn’t be too important in this dish suddenly became important; it would just be sad to leave out vegetables in the stuffing, so I added chilies and garlic (key ingredients, I believe, in making a tasty bossam), and mushrooms and carrots to juxtapose the texture.
This process has definitely inspired me to try and modify and remake this dish in a different way, though, this is something I’m quite happy with as its first iteration. I hope to share my next version with you soon!
Recipe for Dwaejigogi Baechu Ssam (돼지고기 배추쌈) - Korean-Style Pork Cabbage Rolls
- 8-12 Cabbage Rolls
- 10 dried Shiitake Mushrooms
- 450g (1lb) Pork Belly
- 6g (1T) Ginger
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 30 (1T) Fermented Soy Bean Paste (Doenjang)
- 8-12 large Napa Cabbage leaves
- 525g (3 cups) cooked Rice
- 120g (1 medium) Carrot
- 50g (1) Green Chili
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 40g (3T) Sesame Oil
- 30g (1½T) Red Pepper Paste (Gochujang)
- 20g (2t) Fermented Soy Bean Paste (Doenjang)
- 15g (1T) Fish Sauce
- 8g (1½t) Rice Vinegar
- 6g (1½t) Granulated Sugar
- 4g (2t) Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru)
- 40g (2T) Salted Shrimp (Saeu Jeot)
- 14g (1T) Sesame Oil
- 3g (1t) Sesame Seeds
- 4g (1t) Granulated Sugar
- 2 small Scallions, chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- Rinse and hydrate the dried mushrooms 4-6 hours, or overnight.
- Cook the pork belly in a pot of water with the ginger, 2 garlic cloves, star anise, bay leaf, and a tablespoon of bean paste for 30-45 minutes, or until the pork is tender. Rinse the pork under cold water and pat dry.
- Boil the cabbage leaves for 2 minutes, just to the point the leaves become pliable. Cool under cold running water or an ice bath. Squeeze out excess water.
- Cube the pork into 1cm cubes, place into a large bowl. Peel and cut the carrot into ½cm cubes. Squeeze out the water from the mushrooms and cut them the same way as the carrot. Rough chop the green chili and garlic. Place all of the vegetables into the bowl. Add the cooked rice and pork seasoning, and mix well.
- Lay out a cabbage leaf onto a cutting board, with the stem end closest to you, and scoop about ¼-⅓-cup pork-rice mixture onto the leaf. Roll and wrap the rice into an enclosed package. Repeat for the other leaves.
- Place all of the cabbage rolls into a steamer and steam for 15-20 minutes, or until the leaves are tender.
- Serve the cabbage rolls immediately with the dipping sauce, and enjoy with a nice plate of radish kimchi.
- If you prefer using fresh shiitake mushrooms, you are welcome to do so. I like using dried mushrooms because they bring about a stronger mushroom flavor, and a nice meaty texture.
- The ginger, garlic, star anise, bay leaf, and bean paste all help to remove some of the funky pork smells. The boiling process allows most of the cooking to take place, though it's further cooked once they have been stuffed.
- We want the cabbage leaves to have some flexibility for rolling, but not so cooked that it's falling apart. We also don't want to add extra water to the rice mixture during the stuffing process, so it's better to give the leaves a gentle squeeze to rid of that.
- Cubing the pork, carrot, and mushrooms to specific sizes are just an approximation. As long as the pieces are small enough to distribute evenly within the rice, you're good to go.
- Make sure to put the cabbage leaf onto the cutting board with the inside of the leaf facing up. What I mean by that is the way the cabbage grows; the leaves will naturally roll up into a nice package on one side of the leaf better than the other.
- The number of leaves and the amount of rice mixture that goes into the cabbage rolls depends on the size of the leaves. If your leaves are quite large (broad and long), you might find yourself only wrapping 8 leaves. If the leaves are smaller (small throughout, or long and narrow), you will find that it's easier to wrap with less filling. If you happen to have a bunch of the rice mixture left over, feel free to wrap more leaves, or make fried rice with it!
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