Pondering Sarmale (stuffed cabbage)

No, I am not your typical Romanian. I never ever made sarmale in my life! In fact my wife who is American made sarmale and they actually tasted better than in Romania! Heck, what is wrong with me?? They are known in the West as cabbage rolls or stuffed cabbage.

As a result, I decided to start a quest by making my first sarmale ever! Meaning that today I will go to our favorite grocery store Valli Produce, with a shopping list in hope of finding the right ingredients! In the mean time I will need to make a couple international long distance calls to a couple Mamas in Romania there to try to compile a recipe that’s very close to the origins.

Of course the main ingredient is impossible to find here unless you make it yourself: pickled cabbage leaves. This thing is usually sold in the piata (read: farmer’s market) there out of huge wooden barrels. A delicious stinky pickled cabbage ready to rock and roll!
But there is an ‘Americanized” trick to freeze the cabbage and then thaw it. That will wilt the leaves making it easy to roll.

The list looks like this:
– cabbage
– white or brown rice (still debating)
Guanciale (yeah, right)
– Pork and/or Beef ground
– Tomatoes

Am I missing something? Please twitter me. I’ll have my cell with me. Here is your chance to give me some tips!

Wish me luck!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

8 thoughts on “Pondering Sarmale (stuffed cabbage)”

  • I like the sound of doing it with a pickled cabbage leaf! I bet that adds loads of flavour. Good luck with this – I am sure yours will be better than your wife’s!

  • Bob: Thanks for the visit and comment!

    Foodycat: You are right. Nothing can beat pickled cabbage. Beside that the leaves become very tender making the wrapping process a breeze. Thanks for the comments!

  • Great post. Although I’ve never made stuffed cabbage, an alternative to freezing the leaves you might try blanching them in boiling water for a few seconds until they wilt.

  • Grace: Thanks for the comment! I did that indeed but I blanched the whole cabbage and the inner leaves were not tender. My answer to this was starting the first batch of brine-pickled cabbage. As it supposed to be.

  • When I lived in Romania, my wife used to just pull apart the leaves and blanch them until they were soft, then roll em up. We also used to cut the stems from the back of the leaves to make them roll easier. We never used pickled cabbage, only fresh. But it was still great everytime. I guess it all depends on the way a family, or maybe even a village, does it.

  • Aether,

    Thanks for the comment. Indeed there are certain ways of making sarmale and indeed it differs from region to region. I just remember the ones made with pickled cabbage turning out supreme – nothing to equal.
    Probably because the brinning-pickling process adds extra flavor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *