Here’s one of the easiest do-it-now recipes you might ever stumble upon for your winter lunch or dinner: Cabbage cups. Cabbage is at its peak this time of year and is a winter staple that is incredibly delicious and versatile. Cabbage cups are so easy and so tasty. They offer a totally over-the-top crunch and the versatility you might look forward to with your typical at-home tacos, burritos, or lettuce cups: Just fill with your favorite ingredients or leftovers, drizzle with sauce and dressings, sprinkle with toppings, eat, and repeat. You’ll find you can fill yourself with quite a few of these because they’re light but so darn tasty.
Here, I use napa cabbage, but red or green cabbage leaves would work great, too. Simply remove the first two inches of the inner core of the cabbage, carving from the base, and carefully peel off the leaves to form large, single leaves for filling with your favorite ingredients.
I filled mine with thin rice noodles, sesame-green onion omelette strips, soy sauce-sriracha glazed cashews, napa cabbage sriracha slaw, extra green onions and cilantro, summer’s sweet-spicy cucumber onion pickles, and nori seaweed sprinkles topped with extra sauces–toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, and other hot sauces. It’s an umami overload. The crunch of the cabbage is totally satisfying. The hit of heat from the sriracha combines with the rich oils of the sesame seeds and cashews, and then there’s the green onion omelette….C’mon!
This might all sound super complicated. It’s not at all. Here’s how you do it.
Gather your ingredients:
- 1 head of cabbage (napa, red, or green)
- 1 lime
- Nori seaweed sheets
- 1 bunch of cilantro (I still have a ton growing in my garden!)
- Noodles or rice (nearly any kind will do)–grain is optional, you can also just fill with additional protein or veggies.
- Condiments: Soy sauce, sriracha, toasted sesame oil, garlic powder
- Cashews or other favorite nuts or seeds
- Other protein, as desired
To make nori seaweed sprinkles:
- Open a package of roasted nori seaweed sheets. Tear several sheets into chunks and place in a blender. Blend until they form small flakes. Cap in a small jar. It will last for weeks (or months depending on how quickly you use it).
To make the sesame-green onion omelette:
- Whisk up several fresh eggs.
- Add a pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper.
- Set aside.
- Add a couple of handfuls of black sesame seeds to a large pan. Roast on medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, until they start to jump in the pan. Top with two chopped green onions, including white and green parts. Heat through.
- Drizzle in egg mixture. Let set. Turn. Remove when firm. Cool. Cut into strips. Store in your fridge to use for future cabbage cups (there will be more, I promise you.)
- Note: You can skip the omelette altogether and just make a hot, buttery fried egg to layer into your cabbage cup. The simplicity of this is outstanding and works beautifully with all the other more complicated flavors.
For the soy sauce-sriracha glazed cashews:
- In a small bowl add 1 cup of raw cashews (or other favorite nuts or seeds)
- Drizzle about a tablespoon of soy sauce, about a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, and about a teaspoon of sriracha sauce atop–if you like heat, add more.
- At this point, add dry ingredients: about 1/2 teaspoon ground garlic, about a tablespoon of black sesame seeds, about a tablespoon of nori seaweed flakes. Stir to coat.
- Place on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for 4-5 minutes. Stir. Return to oven for another 4-5 minutes. Stir and toast until golden brown, just a few minutes more. Cool and store in a jar.
- Note: You can add all kinds of fun flavors. I made some super tasty curry cashews by just replacing the garlic powder and sriracha with two teaspoons of curry.
To make thin rice noodles:
- Boil following package directions, but don’t overcook. Drain and rinse. Place in a bowl. Drizzle with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and nori seaweed flakes.
- Alternatively, you can use other noodles here: spaghetti, udon, soba, bean thread, Korean sweet potato, or pad thai noodles would all work just fine.
For the sriracha cabbage slaw:
- Cut 2 leaves of napa cabbage into bite-size strips. Add a big tablespoon of mayonnaise, a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, and sriracha to taste. Season to taste (add more mayo, salt and pepper, etc.). Stir and let sit for a few minutes before eating.
To layer your ingredients, just add your noodles (rice would go great here, too, or skip it entirely and fill with extra protein and veggies), omelette strips, slaw, other protein if you want (tofu, chicken, beef), a pile of slaw, several seasoned cashews, and a good pinch of cilantro and green onions. I added sliced sweet-spicy cucumber onion pickles from summer’s canning season, a flavor that combined with this meal brought me to my knees, but you can totally skip the pickles if all of this is sounding just way too much. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil, the juice of a slice of fresh lime, a dash of sriracha, and other sauces you love and adore. Keep soy sauce nearby to add as necessary.
Lastly, this is a total fusion food. You can add a number of flavors that will hold up well here: seasoned rice vinegar, grated fresh ginger, ranch or thousand island dressings (surprisingly), sour cream, a dollop of spicy grain mustard or smooth dijon, grated carrot or zucchini, green peas, water chestnuts, sliced cucumbers, lettuce….or all kinds of other toppings. It’s about what you mix and how you mix it so go with the flow and add what you love. You can go cray cray with this one.
If you try this and have a cabbage cup success story to share, please do!