Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Cabbage Rolls Soup)

Vietnamese cabbage rolls soup
Vietnamese cabbage rolls soup. © Connie Veneracion
  • 60 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6
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Depending on where you are in the world, cabbage rolls may be filled with meat, rice, chopped vegetables, mushrooms, and spices. The cabbage rolls may be steamed, baked or simmered and served with a sauce. The sauce can be sour cream, yogurt, tomato-based or made with lingonberry jam.

In Vietnam, cabbage rolls are served in broth. In most recipes, the meat-filled cabbage leaves are simmered in water until the rich flavors of the meat and the subtle sweetness of the cabbage permeate the cooking liquid. I prefer to use homemade broth instead of water.

What You'll Need

  • 1 head cabbage (white)
  • 400 grams ground pork (with at least 20 percent fat)
  • 100 grams shrimp (shelled, minced)
  • 6 shallots (or 2 large red onions)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro (minced)
  • 2​ teaspoons fish sauce (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • 12 to 16 onion leaves
  • 8 to 10 cups homemade broth

How to Make It

  1. Prepare the cabbage. There are three steps: removing the hard core, boiling the cabbage the soften and cutting off the thick white center from each leaf.
  2. The core of the cabbage is shaped like a cone. If the cabbage is standing upright, the "mouth" of the "cone" is at the bottom. The opposite end of the cone ends about an inch or two below the top side of the cabbage. First, cut off the cone-shaped core. Position the cabbage with the base on top. Using a sharp, pointed knife held at a slight angle, cut into the core of the cabbage stopping about an inch or two from the opposite end. Rotating the cabbage little by little, repeat until you have cut around the base of the cire. If you did the procedure correctly, you should be able to pull out the entire core without much resistance.
  1. Next, soften the cabbage. Drop the cabbage into a pot with the hole pointing upward. Pour boiling water into the pot (I pour the boiling water directly into the hole) until the cabbage is completely submerged. Place a heavy heatproof plate to keep the cabbage under water. Boil until softened. Depending on the size of the cabbage, this can take anywhere from seven to 15 minutes. Scoop out the cabbage, plunge in iced water and drain.
  2. Separate the cabbage leaves taking care not to tear them. You need 12 to 16 whole cabbage leaves (you won't be able to use the small ones; keep them for another use). Using a small, sharp knife, cut off the thick white portion in the middle of each leaf. Start at the middle of each leaf and cut all the way down using as though paring a potato. The cabbage leaves are now ready to be used as wrappers.
  3. Blanch the onion leaves in boiling water for a few seconds to wilt. Rinse well.
  4. Peel and finely chop the shallots (or onions) and carrot.
  5. Crush, peel and finely mince the garlic.
  6. Place the ground pork in a bowl and add the chopped shallots, carrot, garlic and cilantro. Season with fish sauce and ground pepper.
  7. Lay a cabbage roll flat, the core end nearest you. Place 1 to 2 tablespoonfuls of filling at the center of the cabbage leaf. Take the edge nearest you, fold over the filling. Take the side edges and fold in. Roll the whole thing outward to close and seal. Take an onion leaf and use it to tie the cabbage roll. Repeat until all the cabbage leaves are stuffed and tied.
  1. In a large cooking pot, bring the broth to a boil. Drop the cabbage rolls one by one. Wait until the broth is boiling once more then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Serve hot.