These Napa Cabbage Sticky Rice Rolls are seared then served with a sweet and spicy sauce for a delicious and quick meal. The recipe is easy to follow with other variations included below.
Do you save your vegetables’ stem for fried rice or for future use? I like to save my vegetables’ stem for the former and to make a filling for a dish like these Napa Cabbage Sticky Rice Rolls. One of the best ways to use leftover stems and homegrown long beans is to add them into a filling.
I also love this Grilled Cabbage Wrap with sushi rice and cabbage leaves. Napa Cabbage has a slightly sweet flavor, and it’s perfect in a stew, soup, or used as a leaf for rolls. If you haven’t tried grilling or searing your leaves, you’ll want to try this recipe. It adds a smoky aroma and elevates the dish to another level. This recipe is easily customizable and you can always make a big batch to store them for later (store the sauce separately). Let’s see how these are made with the steps below.
How to make Napa Cabbage Sticky Rice Rolls
1. Prepare the rice
I used Thai sweet rice for this recipe and cleaned them by rinsing them with water until the water turned clear, then soak overnight. I normally prep this at night so I can work on it the next day. Depending on the rice brand, you may not need this pre-soak step and may cook the rice immediately. For other rice such as sushi, quinoa, or brown, please cook as directed on the package.
To cook the rice, place drained rice in a heatproof bowl. Prepare a steamer with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Place the bowl with rice in the inner steamer rack and mix it with water (my usual measurement is 1 cup of rice to 1 cup of water). Steam the rice over high heat for 20 to 25 minutes to fully cook the grain. Look for translucent grains or give it a taste test. Remove from the steamer when the rice is ready and let it cool completely.
2. Prepare the Filling
The filling is very flexible so I just add whatever crunchy vegetables that I can find especially during my ‘clean out the fridge’ days. In today’s recipe, I used a mix of kale stems, long beans, and carrot. I added slices of mushrooms for that extra savoriness.
Heat a non-stick pan, add a drizzle of oil, sauté the vegetables for a minute or two, then season accordingly. Transfer this mixture to the cooled rice and stir to combine. Since sticky rice is more sticky than other grain, it may be harder to combine at first but don’t worry, just try mixing with a spatula or chopsticks.
3. Prepare Napa Cabbage rolls
I blanch my Napa Cabbage leaves in hot water for a minute or so until tender. For other cabbage leaves that have a harder stem, you may need to cook them longer. Remove the cabbage leaves – putting them into an ice bath is optional – and drain out the water.
Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the middle and wrap to seal. More filling is needed for a larger leaf and vice versa. Set aside.
4. Put everything together
The Napa Cabbage rolls can be served as-is though I highly recommend charring or grilling them for an amazing smoky flavor. To cook them, heat a non-stick pan and add a drizzle of oil. Then, sear both sides of the cabbage roll until slightly brown. Remove and make the sauce.
Using the same pan, add a little more oil and sauté ginger until aromatic. Then add in some mushrooms, green onions, chili, water, and seasoning. Thicken the sauce with cornstarch slurry, then place charred cabbage rolls in and allow them to absorb the sauce on both sides. Turn off the heat and transfer to a serving dish. Serve warm and enjoy!
Cooking Tips and Variations
- What if I don’t have Napa Cabbage? – Other cabbage leaves such as Savoy, purple cabbage, and cabbage go really well with sticky rice. Large leafy greens like collard and lettuce are other options.
- Gluten-free option – Sub sauces with gluten-free sauces to make this dish gluten-free.
- Filling variations – I used a mixture of long beans and kale stems because those were what I had. Other crunchy vegetables, such as edamame, broccoli, chard, go well in this dish too.
- Rice – I love to use sticky rice or sushi rice as they don’t fall out easily when I wrap them. Many readers made the Grilled Cabbage Wrap with other grains such as quinoa and basmati and ended up with amazing results.
These Napa Cabbage Sticky Rice Rolls are
- Easy to make
- Best for make-ahead meals (save the sauce separately)
- Flavorful especially when the cabbage leaves were seared in oil
- Easily customizable – use gluten-free sauces for a gluten-free option
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Napa Cabbage Sticky Rice Rolls
- 10 – 12 large Napa Cabbage leaves or other veggie of choice
- oil for cooking
Cabbage Roll Sauce
- 3 slices of ginger
- 3-4 medium-sized mushrooms sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
- 1½ tablespoons soy sauce/tamari
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- ½ tablespoon maple syrup optional
- 1 chopped Thai chilis optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup water
- cornstarch slurry mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 ½ cups sticky or glutinous rice or other sticky grain such as sushi rice
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup of chopped veggies used a mixture of long beans, kale stems
- 1 small carrot chopped
- ½ tablespoon minced ginger
- ½ cup mushrooms, sliced used Bella
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- ½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the rice (Sticky, Glutinous or sweet rice)
- Clean and rinse sticky rice with water until water turns clear. Soak for 4 hours or overnight. Some brands may not need long soak time, please check package's directions.
- Drain and place rice it in a glass bowl or bowl that can withstand heat.
- Prepare a steamer with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Place the rice bowl in inner steamer rack, add a cup of water, then stir to combine.
- Steam rice over high heat for 20 to 25 minutes. Once the grain turns translucent, then it's ready. If not, add splashes of water and steam again. Remove and let it cool.
- To make the filling, heat a non-stick pan with 1 teaspoon oil, sauté minced ginger until fragrant, then continue to sauté the rest of the filling ingredients. Season with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, salt, and pepper.
- Transfer mixture to the cooled rice's bowl and mix to combine. Taste test and season if needed.
How to assemble the Cabbage Roll
- Bring a pot of water to boil, blanch Napa cabbage leaves for about 1 to 2 minutes . Remove and quickly plunge them in icy water to stop the cooking (optional step).
- Place one cabbage leaf on a cleaned surface. Add a heaping spoon of filling in the middle, fold in and wrap to seal. (Note: more filling for a larger leaf). Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Put all ingredients together
- In a heated non-stick pan with 2 teaspoons oil, place as many cabbage wraps as it will fit on one layer of the pan. Cook until both sides are nicely brown, flipping halfway. Remove and set aside.
- Using the same pan, add a little more oil and sauté ginger until golden brown.
- Then add the mushrooms, green onions, and chopped Thai chilies and give it a quick stir.
- Add the water and bring the heat up then lower to a simmer and stir in the cornstarch slurry.
- Place cabbage rolls in the sauce and cook for 30 seconds on each side to allow the cabbage to absorb the sauce.
- Transfer cabbage rolls to a serving dish and serve warm with more sauce.
- What if I don’t have Napa Cabbage? – Other cabbage leaves such as Savoy, purple cabbage, and cabbage go really well with sticky rice. Large leafy green like collard and lettuce is another option.
- Gluten-free option – Sub sauces with gluten-free sauces to make this dish completely no gluten.