Recipes: Asian-Inspired Deconstructed Cabbage Roll
I’ve probably mentioned it many times before, but I am not a fan of summer. The sweltering heat, the choking humidity and poor air quality, the burning sunlight — it all makes me pretty unhappy.
One of the many things that annoys me about summer is the difficulty of cooking decent meals. Living in an apartment building, barbecue and outdoor cookery is not much of an option for me. But being in the kitchen for any length of time heats up the entire apartment and just adds to the general discomfort of the season. As a solution to this, I’ve developed a lot of recipes that take less than 20 minutes to prepare. The less time spent in the kitchen, and the less time spent with the stove or oven running, the more comfortable I am with this whole “summer” thing.
Today’s recipe was a bit of a make-it-up-as-you-go affair, and it came out beautifully.
Feeling headachey and gross from a combination of heat and tiredness and depression, I was craving some sort of homey comfort-food. Lasagna. Meatloaf. Cabbage rolls. But all of those things take a lot of oven-time, which was obviously not an option in this weather. A dig through the cupboards, though, revealed a package of rice noodles — what could I possibly do with those? Some ground beef, Asian spices, and veggies later, I’d created something delicious.
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced.
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped.
- A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root, diced small or grated.
- 1lb ground beef (or other ground meat or meat alternative — pork, chicken, or turkey would work just fine here, or go with tofu for a veggie option).
- A splash of sesame oil.
- A couple tablespoons of olive oil.
- 1 small zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces.
- 1/4 of a large cabbage, roughly chopped.
- 2 tbsp soy sauce.
- 1/3 cup lime juice.
- A splash of fish sauce (omit for vegetarians).
- Asian 5-spice blend of your choice (I make my own with cinnamon, dried chilis, anise, ginger, and tumeric — and I go heavy on the ginger and chili. You can buy a pre-made mix or combine your own flavours).
- Rice noodles (any style)
Heat up the olive oil and sesame oil in a large pan or wok, at medium-high heat. Add in your onion, garlic, ginger, and beef. Lightly brown these ingredients, then turn down the temperature to medium-low. Add your soy sauce, lime juice, fish sauce, and spices.
At the same time, bring water to a boil in a separate pot. The rice noodles only need to cook for about three minutes; as soon as the water is boiling you can drop them in, but don’t forget about them or they’ll turn to mush! Rescue & plate them as soon as they’ve gone soft.
Cook your meat mixture for about 5 minutes to combine all of the flavours, then toss in your cabbage and zucchini (alternatively, you can use other veggies like eggplant, bell peppers, bok choy — whatever catches your fancy). Stir the mix so that the veggies cook evenly, and as soon as they start to get nice and soft, it’s ready. Spoon the meat mix over your rice noodles, and serve immediately (garnish with more chilis and a slice of lime if you want to get fancy).
This makes about 3-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are. And it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare!
Any leftover meat mixture can be wrapped up in cabbage leaves and kept in the fridge to snack on cold the next day. But this stuff is so delicious that you might not have any leftovers.