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July 23, 2008

Conquer Chinese Cabbage . . . Instant Sandwich


The idea of sticking things inside leaves and consuming them has been around for a good many years. It has evolved and broadened its horizons in ways that, were you to think about them in a sensory deprivation chamber, could well drive you stark raving mad.


Naturally, we allude to the cigar, which is first lit on fire and then inhaled as the leaves smolder. We also speak of a relatively new invention, the sandwich made not of bread but of lettuce leaves. Some may call it the lazy man’s way out of the sandwich-making business, but if one were to deny its existence based solely on the question of taste, then one risks opening doors best left closed.


So far, we have addressed the question of what to do with a leaf wrapped around something. We have not yet begun to probe the thick issue of which leaf for what wrapping project.


Let us stab right at the heart of this, and assume the leaf in question is Chinese cabbage. What is Chinese cabbage? We have assumed it. Introductions are not necessary.


On its face, it would appear that Chinese cabbage is wholly unsuitable for wrapping around something. It is not brittle, but it is indeed an insolent leaf. No matter how many times you instruct it to remain wrapped around something, it will attempt to regain its original shape. To properly use it as a wrapping, you must break its spirit.


You do this by either steaming or boiling it for a short time, until nearly wilted. Look at it, lying there, crushed beneath the boot of your tyranny. Laugh at it, pity it, do what you like. It has finished standing up for itself. Rinse it in cold water and lay flat.


It is now time to engage the question of what it will be wrapped around. Assemble the following: chopped up shiitake mushrooms and matchstick-sized pieces of green onion, carrot and garlic scape.


Halt. Back up. A garlic scape? Yes, it is the green top of a growing head of garlic. It is milder than a garlic clove.


Throw these things into hot oil for a few minutes, until softened. Mix these together with some toasted sesame seeds, mung sprouts and a few leaves of fresh mint.


Take the beaten and dejected leaf and place a lump of your filling in it, down at the bottom of the stem. Roll the leaf from that point, and fold in the sides. Once finished, it will resemble a small, green, leafy bean bag.


Steam it for several minutes. While doing this, whisk together a sauce of grated ginger, soy sauce, fish oil and corn starch. Keep doing so until it achieves a proper thickness. When the stuffed leaves are finished, you may either serve the sauce over them with brown rice, or use as a dipping sauce. Regardless of your choice, eat comfortable in the knowledge that you will get no more sass from the cabbage leaves.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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