Canh bắp cải cuốn, which literally translates to stuffed cabbage wrap soup is my way of using the leftover potsticker filling I recently made. I stuffed the leftover mixture into whole cabbage leaves that were previously softened by par-boiling. I served them phở-style, meaning that I brought them to the table in bowls and then covered them with celery and carrot broth just before everyone dug in.
Creating little cabbage “gifts” is a great way to vary the vegetarian meals we've been having this week for Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year, on February 3rd). I tied the cabbage with green onions strings. The entire thing is edible and looks very playful.
Servings: 8 servings
1 head white cabbage (about 1 pound total)
1 cup vegetarian filling
(click on the link for the recipe)
2 bunches green onions
4 carrots, peeled
1 daikon radish, peeled
6 celery stalks, peeled and sliced
2 Fuji apples, quartered
1 tablespoon dried fried shallot (store-bought)
2 teaspoons palm sugar (or granulated sugar), grated
2-½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Preparing the green onions: Thinly slice about 3 tablespoons of the white part of the green onions. Remove the bulbs from the rest. Separate them and create green, long strings. Set aside.
How to wrap the cabbage packages:
Core and separate all the cabbage leaves from the root, which is fibrous and tough to eat. Wash the cabbage thoroughly under cold running water. Turn the leaves over and carefully slice off some of the thick vein so the leaves roll up more easily.
Boil both the cabbage leaves and green onions in about a quart of salted boiling water. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until softened. Drain and immediately transfer the greens into a cold water bath. Pat dry on towels. Remove as much liquid as possible. Season with salt.
Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling in the middle of a cabbage leaf. Fold the cabbage around the filling. On the horizontal side of the leaf, take one side and fold it over to the bottom of the little package. Then take the other side, folding it over, too. Make sure the filling is nicely covered. It should be about 2-½" package. Add 2 green onion strings. Make sure your ribbon is long enough and can go around the gift in whatever pattern you decide. Form the look of a cross on top and bottom. Tie it until perfectly secure.
How to make vegetarian broth: In a large pot, place the apples in 3 quarts of water. Bring to a roaring boil for about 30 minutes and cook until the broth is reduced by 1/3. Regularly skim the impurities rising to the surface of the broth using a fine mesh strainer. Add the carrots and daikon and lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Cook for about 20 more minutes. Add the celery, palm sugar, dried shallots and salt. Cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the apples from the broth. Slice the vegetables and place them back in the broth. Check the seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. Adjust sweetness of the broth. The amount of sugar varies with the sweetness of the apples. Finish with a drizzle of sesame oil.
Line up your serving bowls. Place some sliced green onions and cilantro in each bowl. Add 2 to 3 cabbage packages per person. Ladle the boiling broth into the bowls with carrots, celery and daikon radish.
Serve with chili garlic sauce (tướng ớt) on the side.
Parboiling means briefly boiling the cabbage leaves. Think "par-tial" boiling = parboiling. You could skip this step but you'll have very large wraps.
Daikon (củ cải trắng in Vietnamese) is an Asian radish that looks like a large white carrot. I use this root a lot when making broth to add natural sweetness to it.
If you're a vegetarian, infusing apples gives a natural sweetness that resembles chicken broth. You can substitute 2 tablespoons of frozen apple juice concentrate for the fresh apples. When I make vegetable broth, I tend to use Fuji apples or Golden Delicious, which are some of the sweetest varieties.
If you have vegetable broth left over, place the broth in containers and store in the freezer. It will keep for up to 6 months.