A tasty filling wrapped with cabbage leaves and served with a delicious sauce, Chinese steamed cabbage rolls are pretty, low-carb and very simple to make.
Recently I’ve received a request from one of my readers. They asked if I can introduce a recipe for dumplings without using flour-based wrappers. Yes! Here you are: Chinese steamed cabbage rolls filled with pork and mushroom. Pretty, tasty & low-carb! We have an interesting name in Chinese for this dish: Fei Cui Bao Rou (翡翠包肉) which means “Jade wrapped meat”.
Simple cooking steps
Let’s begin with the cooking procedures. Simple and straightforward, here are five steps to follow:
- Briefly cook cabbage leaves & carrot strips in boiling water until wilted.
- Mix the filling which contains minced meat (pork, beef or chicken), shiitake mushrooms & seasonings.
- Wrap the filling with cabbage leaves then tie with carrot strips.
- Steam for 10 mins.
- Make the sauce with mushroom water, oyster sauce & cornstarch. Pour it over the rolls. Enjoy!
Prepare the cabbage wrappers
To make perfect wrappers, your cabbage leaves should meet three criteria: large enough to hold the filling, pliable to fold easily, resistant to tearing. To achieve these goals, make sure you follow two basic rules:
Choose the right type of cabbage
For shooting this recipe, I used savoy cabbage. Their leaves are loosely layered making it easy to peel off without tearing. It also has a pretty curly look. Sometimes I use the leafy part of a Napa cabbage (aka Chinese cabbage) instead. It has a tender texture and a lovely hint of sweetness.
For this recipe, I don’t recommend green and red cabbage which are tightly layered and require a much longer time to cook.
Cook the leaves to the right texture
Before wrapping the rolls, you need to cook the cabbage leaves to make them more pliable. Bring a pot of water to a full boil. Add in the leaves. Take them out as soon as they begin to wilt. That is to say, no more than 20 seconds if using savoy cabbage. Reduce the time to 10 seconds if using Napa cabbage leaves.
Use carrot strips as ribbons
Love to make this dish even prettier? You can use carrot slices as ribbons to tie the rolls. Choose a long carrot. Use a regular vegetable peeler to peel off long strips. As they are brittle when raw, you need to soften them in boiling water. A few seconds would do the trick.
Make a tasty filling
I use a very simple filling for my cabbage rolls. The ingredients include minced meat, shiitake mushrooms, scallions & a few seasonings. It’s a classic combination that’s often found in Chinese dumplings.
You are free to choose your preferred minced meat. Pork, beef, chicken, turkey all work fine. If you have read my Ultimate Guide on “How to make great dumpling fillings”, you might have noticed that I always emphasize on adding liquid to the meat filling to make it juicy. This isn’t necessary for my cabbage roll filling. The steaming process will extract some of the moisture from the cabbage thus making the filling extra moist.
Thanks to their strong umami taste, shiitake mushrooms make a great addition to fillings of all kinds. I prefer dried ones for their more intense flavour than fresh ones. Wash then soak them in cold water for at least 8 hours to rehydrate.
A useful trick: Don’t discard the water in which the shiitake are soaked! It has absorbed great flavour from the mushrooms and will be used to make a delicious sauce for the cabbage rolls.
How to wrap the rolls
A simple way to steam
Now we are ready to cook the rolls. Place them on a serving plate that is small enough to fit into your steamer. It will take 10 mins to cook. If the rolls are to be served later, you can keep them in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Extend the steaming time to 12 minutes if just taken out from the fridge.
What if you don’t own a steamer? Here is my easy solution: Put a small bowl in the middle of a large pot/wok. Fill the pot/wok with water (not over the bowl). Then place the serving plate on top of the bowl. Steam the usual way (Please refer to the tutorial video in the recipe card).
Top with a delicious sauce
These cabbage rolls are delicious on their own. But a sauce would make them even tastier. Use some of the mushroom water you saved earlier. Add some oyster sauce and corn starch. Mix then heat in a saucepan for a few seconds until it thickens. Pour it over the cooked rolls. Enjoy!
Steamed cabbage rolls (翡翠包肉)
For the wrappers
- 8 savoy cabbage leaves - see note 1
- 1 long carrot - optional
For the filling
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in water
- 200 g minced pork/beef/chicken - 7oz
- 1 stalk scallions, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon light soy sauce - Use gluten-free soy sauce to make the dish gluten-free
- 1 pinch Chinese five spice powder
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 dash sesame oil
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoon mushroom water - see note 2
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
Prepare the wrappers
- Blanch cabbage leaves in boiling water until they begin to wilt (it should take no more than 20 seconds). Drain and set aside.
- Use a vegetable peeler to peel off 8 narrow strips of carrots. Blanch for a few seconds then drain (carrot is purely for an aesthetic reason so it’s optional).
Mix the filling
- Squeeze out excess water in shiitakes mushrooms (keep the water in which the mushrooms are soaked for later use). Chop them into tiny pieces.
- Put mushrooms, minced meat and all the seasonings into a bowl. Mix well.
Assemble the rolls
- Place ⅛ of the filling in the middle of a cabbage leaf. Wrap it into a cylinder shape.
- Tie the roll with a strip of carrot (please refer to my tutorial video below). Repeat to finish the rest.
Steam the rolls
- Place the rolls into a serving plate then put into a steamer. Steam for 10 minutes.
- If you don’t have a steamer, see note 3 for an alternative solution which is also demonstrated in my tutorial video below.
Make the sauce
- While waiting for the rolled to cook, mix 3 tablespoons of the mushroom water with oyster sauce and cornstarch. Stir well.
- Heat up the sauce over high heat. Remove as soon as it thickens. Pour it over the rolls. Serve warm.
Make in advance
- You may keep raw, wrapped cabbage rolls in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Extend the steaming time to 12 minutes if just taken out from the fridge.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.
THIS IS A VERY QUICK AND DELICIOUS RECIPE. FILLS YOU UP WITH FLAVOR WITHOUT THE FEELING OF BEING FAT NOW CAUSE YOU ATE SUCH A GREAT MEAL.
I was just thinking if you could use bok choy leaves like that?Swiss chard leaves which is a totally underutilized vegetable that I grow myself could be used. Even thin egg whites or whole egg pancakes you can make.Spring roll wrappers too. Is there any type of very thin tofu that is made to use like wrappers the way you used the cabbage? Then you could use cabbage or or other flat leaf vegs. inside of the flat tofu or put whatever you want inside. You know more about how tofu comes than I do!
Wei Guo says
Yes Barbara. A type of tofu skin called Fu Pi (腐皮) can be used as a substitute.
If I’m going to prepare this as a go to meal everyday, can I make it ahead and store in the freezer?
Wei Guo says
Yes Michelle! You can assemble and freeze them uncooked. Then steam for 3-4 minutes longer without defrosting.
Delicious 🙂 Did a vegan version with garden gourmet vegan meat, really tasty 🙂
These are very good! Could I steam these in the morning and then pack it for lunch? Or do they have to be eaten immediately after steaming?
Wei Guo says
Although they taste best when warm, you can surely eat them when cooled. Enjoy!
Delicious! I made these for the new year and they turned out very well, thank you for the recipe 🙂
Wei Guo says
That’s wonderful to know!