Japanese cooking

Food & Drink - June 5th, 1992

by Kanami Egami

Cabbages are available in Japan all year round, but the best season to enjoy them is early summer. Rolled cabbage is one of the most popular dishes enjoyed in countries all over the world. In Japanese cooking abura-age (fried thin slices of tofu) are used.

Rolled Cabbage


6 cabbage leaves
3 abura-age

(a) 200 g. ground pork
1/2 leek
2 shiitake (Chinese mushrooms)
1/2 egg
1  Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
2  tsp sugar

(b) 2 cups stock
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/3 tsp salt
2  tsp sugar

Cooking method:

(1) Chop leek and shiitake. Combine ingredients (a) and mix well. Divide the mixture into three portions.

(2) Cook the cabbage leaves in salted boiling water until slightly limp. Drain.

Cabbage leaves

(3) Slit and open abura-age as shown (like a book).

Place opened abura-age on a strainer and pour on boiling water to remove excess oil.

Cabbage leaves

(4) Place two cabbage leaves side by side.

Roll this way.

Rolling cabbage leaves

Lay abura-age on the cabbage with white side up.

(5) Spread the abura-age with one-third of the pork mixture and roll.

Rolled cabbage

(6) Tie with string in three places.

(7) Mix (b) mixture in a saucepan. Add the three cabbage rolls and simmer for about 20 minutes, turn­ing two or three times.

(8)  Remove string and cut each roll into five or six pieces. Place on a plate and spoon on the liquid. (You can thicken the sauce with corn starch mixed with a little water.)

Note on abura-age:

Thin, deep-fried tofu (abura-age or usu-age). Bean curd cakes cut into thin sheets, then deep-fried.

These can be slit open along one end to make “pouches,” which are stuffed with vegetables or with sushi rice.

They are found in food stores in plastic bags in the refrigerator case, three to five pieces per pack. To remove excess oil, pour boiling water over them, drain briefly and dry with paper towels. They are also used in brothy noodle dishes and in simmered dishes without being slit open.