Umami-Rich Napa Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Rice and Pork

Umami-Rich Napa Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Rice and Pork

Recipe excerpt from:
The Global Pantry Cookbook
by Ann Taylor Pittman and Scott Mowbray

Global Pantry Ingredients: 

  • Chili Crisp
  • Fish Sauce
  • Korean Toasted Sesame Oil
  • Oyster Sauce


This delicious Asian-tilting riff on stuffed cabbage rolls uses fragrant jasmine rice, napa cabbage, and a brothy brown sauce enriched by oyster sauce and toasted sesame oil instead of a tomato-based one. A splash of fish sauce in the porky filling boosts the meaty-savory effect. The result is rich beyond compare, and ever-so-delicately sweet to match the cabbage goodness. We love it with a dollop of chili crisp for extra crunchy umami and heat. Bonus: For anyone who has ever struggled with prying the leaves off a head of regular green cabbage, you’ll be delighted with the ease of working with the napa variety—though we’ve provided instructions for both.

Flavor Booster

The Other Pepper
The pork and rice filling features a good amount of ground white pepper, a variety favored by many Asian food cultures. Its brighter, grassier, less-hot character is a key to the flavor of the filling. Look for whole white peppercorns in Asian stores, or order online, and grind the usual way.

Size Matters

By Big, We Mean Big
Whether you’re using napa or green cabbage, you need big leaves to encase the filling properly—and you want lots of leaf in every bite. For a napa cabbage, opt for a head that’s at least a foot long; for a green cabbage, get the largest one you can find. You’ll have leftover cabbage for a salad or stir-fry the next day.

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large head napa cabbage or green cabbage
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup cooked jasmine rice
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted beef stock
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Korean toasted sesame oil
  • Chili crisp (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with the rack placed in the center. Coat a 13 x 9–inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Prepare the cabbage: If using napa cabbage, remove 18 large leaves from the head of cabbage. Trim off 2 or 3 inches from the bottom of each leaf, where the vein is the thickest. Pile the leaves on a microwave-safe plate. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on High for 5 minutes. Carefully uncover the plate and cool the cabbage slightly. 

If using a large regular green cabbage, insert a short, sharp knife a couple of inches into the base of the cabbage and cut out a conical piece of the core. This makes removing the stiff outer leaves a bit easier. Follow the instructions in Step 2 to soften in the microwave.
  3. Place the pork in a large bowl. Add the rice, scallions, fish sauce, pepper, salt, carrot, and garlic; mix well with your hands. Divide the pork mixture into 8 equal balls. 
  4. To stuff the leaves: If using napa cabbage, arrange 2 leaves on a work surface, with the narrower rib ends overlapping by an inch or two. Spoon one ball of filling into the center of the cabbage leaves. Fold the left leaf over the filling, and roll over to the right side to enclose the filling in a cylinder. Arrange the filled leaves, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves and filling to form 8 cabbage rolls (you should have a couple of extra leaves in case some tear or are too ratty looking). 

If using regular cabbage, place a softened leaf before you with the thick stem part closest to you and a “wing” of the leaf on each side. Cut away a V-shaped notch of that thick stem part, 1 to 2 inches long, to make the leaf more pliable. Place the stuffing at the point of the notch so it’s resting on the leaf between the wings. Fold the bottom of the cabbage leaf forward three-fourths of a turn, then fold in both wings of the cabbage and finish rolling—as if you wee rolling an egg roll. As you complete the cabbage rolls, place them in the prepared baking dish. You should have one extra leaf left over. 
  5. Whisk together the stock, oyster sauce, and sesame oil in a medium bowl; pour over the cabbage rolls. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the filling is thoroughly heated, the flavors are married, and the pork is cooked through, 1 hour. Uncover the dish and bake until the liquid is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes; the sauce will be more like broth than gravy. Serve with chili crisp on the side, if desired.