Thousand Leaves Stuffed Cabbage

“An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage,
concludes that it will also make better soup.”

—H. L. Mencken

japanese stuffed cabbage

“The first mention (of cabbage rolls) in Japanese history dates back to 1895 when they were called “Rooru Kabetsu/Roll Cabbage” (the other way round!).
They can found in most homes, at oden restaurants and in many other establishments. They are particularly popular in winter when cabbages are everywhere in supermarkets.”


I can’t explain why I’ve been craving stuffed cabbage, but there it is. My mother never made it while we were growing up. The only time I ate it as a child was when I went to my friend Joan’s house for dinner. Her family owned the local funeral home, and they lived upstairs. Her mother made stuffed cabbage the evening I visited, and after dinner Joan invited me to go downstairs to comb the hair of their latest “guests.” I declined. But ever since then, I’ve really enjoyed stuffed cabbage in the fall and winter. There are variations of stuffed vegetables, especially stuffed cabbage, all over the world. This recipe is one I made two years ago. The umeboshi adds such a lovely flavor to the rich pork and sweet cabbage that I hope you will try this recipe.

By the way, did anyone notice the kissing turtles in the cabbage picture above?

Rolled Cabbage
Rouru Kyabetsu
alternate spelling: Rooru Kabetsu
「 ロールキャベツレシピ」

adapted from: ChopstickNY
serves 4 as a main dish
  • 1 pound of pork belly, thinly sliced
  • ½ napa cabbage, The number of leaves equals the number of pork slices
    I used regular cabbage this time: parboiled it to peel off the leaves…
  • 1 pack enoki mushrooms roots trimmed off
  • 5-6 umeboshi mashed to a paste 2” x 6” long piece dried kombu soaked for ½ hour, sliced into strips equal to number of slices
  • 30 to 40 freshly shelled ginkgo nuts
  • a peeled apple, if you use a pot that is too big: it just fills the center so the cabbage sandwiches will stand like petals
  • 2 ounces of sake

Spread umeboshi paste onto thinly sliced pork. Remove the thick ribs of the napa cabbage leaves. Each leaf will then be cut in half. Make layers of cabbage, pork, enoki, kombu, cabbage. Place cabbage / pork layers edge-wise around a heavy bottomed pot. Begin on the outer circumference and work toward the center. Tuck the ginkgo nuts in among the leaves. Pour in sake. Steam for about 15 minutes at low to medium heat. Serve with black pepper and a little sesame oil.

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5 thoughts on “Thousand Leaves Stuffed Cabbage

  1. Hope you and Mr Tess and the feline tessellations had a mighty fine Thanksgiving.

    We have borrowed so much from your culture that I wonder that we never took on this fine holiday idea. Course as you know our seasons are all turned upside down. No pumpkins here yet! But we could be thankful for buds on trees, for the first dainty cucumber, (I ate one today), for cherries pinking up – we shall pick them before Christmas. Perhaps I should be thankful for the holidays we have…*chastened*

    • Mr. Tess and I had a great holiday.

      I don’t know that you Aussies would have borrowed this holiday from the U.S. It is quite distinctly American, from a time before this country had much world influence.

      And it is essentially a secular family holiday, a sort of harvest festival with odd rules. The meal must feature a roasted turkey, bread stuffing (or lately bread dressing baked outside the turkey), canned jellied cranberries, yams or sweet potatoes with marshmallows, heavy pumpkin pie (with Cool Whip here in the Midwest), green bean casserole (including Campbell’s mushroom soup and canned onion rings), canned black California olives you can poke your fingers into and play “spooky,” and so on.

      It’s almost as prescribed as a Passover meal with all its significant foods which evoke the Biblical history.

      I envy your spring and early summertime now. I’d love to see budding flowers, new cukes, and cherries.

      But by unusual luck the time we spent with family in Missouri included a fluke of 65°F sunny blue sky weather where we could sit out on the verandas and enjoy the subtle greys and dull oranges lit by the slanting sun. Deer and some people even saw wild turkeys…

      <3 my friend,
      Tess

  2. Pingback: Another Thousand Leaf Cabbage « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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