I’m a huge fan of cabbage. I wasn’t before, but as three of my favorite restaurants on Earth are Ethiopian, and in my neighborhood, I’ve learned to love tikel gomen–an Ethiopian stew made from cabbage, potatoes and carrots. Prior to discovering Ethiopian cuisine, it had never occurred to me that cabbage would be great in a stew. Whole Foods supermarkets have started carrying berbere sauce, the spice mix used in most Ethiopian dishes, which has allowed me to begin exploring with making these dishes in my own kitchen.
After being introduced to a dish known as pancit by a Filipino friend of mine (see picture above)–which uses strands of rice noodles and cabbage, veggies, meats, and eggs–I decided to start trying out different things with cabbage. I made roasted cabbage in the oven with bacon, which I salted and seasoned with garlic and spices, covered with aluminum foil, and allowed to roast for about half an hour. The bacon cooks on top, and its juices bathe the cabbage, imparting their smoky flavor and aroma.
I had made kim chi years ago. It might be a good project to attempt it again. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make sauerkraut at home after watching some videos on YouTube. It’s super easy, and it came out very tasty and crunchy. The cabbage has to be cut into small pieces, then has to rest in a brine (water and salt) for at least a week. The longer it stays in brine, the more the flavor develops. Typically after this period, it’s placed in the refrigerator and consumed.
Sauerkraut, like kim chi, is a fermented food. This means that the bacteria that naturally lives in the cabbage itself is fed and allowed to thrive, pre-digesting the cabbage for us so that, when we eat the final product, we are bringing probiotics and healthy gut bacteria into our bodies. This helps to keep the balance of good versus bad bacteria in our stomachs, which makes it overall easier for us to digest food. This is a great kitchen project for leftover cabbage.
Pancit remains my favorite cabbage-based dish, and the one easiest and most fun to make. Ingredients are stir-fried with soy sauce, and it calls for chicken stock to be added to the stir fry. It’s really that simple, and yields a crazy amount of food, which makes it perfect to cook on weekends to have left-overs to take to work.
Cabbage used to be something that I imagined could be used only in salads. Not anymore. Considering the price, size and yield of a single cabbage, typically one gets a huge bang for the buck cooking cabbage, plus it’s filling, tasty, and healthy–with a decent nutritional value.