Romanian stuffed cabbage rolls with chicken and rice or sarmale – the country’s national dish. It is a most delicious dish made usually with cabbage or wine pickled leaves rolled in a filling of rice and minced meat, most commonly with pork, beef, turkey or chicken. Christmas and other important holidays would not be the same without these amazing rolls.
As a nation, we are so proud of this dish, always welcoming foreign guests with some finger-licking sarmale (and a glass of plum brandy). Usually served with mamaliga (polenta) sour cream and green chilli peppers. While many countries have the tradition of roast turkey when it comes about important holidays, we indulge ourselves in these divine stuffed cabbage rolls.
They can a bit heavy, depending on the meat used, so some moderation is the key if you want a happy tummy after a rich meal. Pickled cabbage or sauerkraut may be replaced with pickled wine leaves, if you cannot find them in store. I was so happy to find out that a Romanian food store was opened recently in the area where l live in the UK, so I can stock up on essentials.
Nothing can compare to the real taste of a traditional food! Rolling can look complicated if no previous experience, but it is such a fun. I remember as l child when l was helping mum, my rolls always looked so bad compared to mum’s perfect and same-sized rolls. I still cannot call myself an expert, but l have definitely improved my skills. Hooray!
I absolutely love our traditional food, there are so many fantastic dishes, but to name a few, Pilaf and Braised cabbage with ham and sausages are my favourite. We don’t really use so many strong spices, but rather let the ingredients bring up their very flavour. Meat is certainly a favourite, you won’t find many people to say they don’t like meat. Although fresh vegetables are also treasured.
Romanian stuffed cabbage rolls with chicken and rice
Let’s have some heavenly Sarmale, I promise you this dish is delicious!
- 250 g minced chicken (1/2 lb)
- 1 cup rice
- 1/2 tbsp vegetarian oil
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 small onion
- pickled cabbage leaves sauerkraut
- 1/2 red pepper
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 0,5 l water (2 cups)
Cut the onion really finely and mix it with the minced chicken.
Rinse the rice under running cold water, then mix it with the chicken and onion.
Add the vegetable oil and season with salt and sweet paprika. If you cook with pork or beef that have a bit of fat in it, oil can be ommited, otherwise it must be added so that the rolls can be nice and tender.
This mixture was enough for 16 rolls, but depending on how big your rolls are, you may need more or less pickled cabbage leaves.
Take a tablespoon of the mixture and place it on the pickled cabbage leaf. Fold it tightly into a roll. Repeat with the remaining mince.
Shred a few pickled cabbage leaves and place them on the bottom of a large pan.
Place the rolls around the pan leaving a well in the middle. Do make sure they are no gaps between the rolls, otherwise they might unfold during cooking.
Add the chopped red pepper and tomato purée and pour in the water, making sure all the rolls are completely covered. Add more water if necessarily.
Cover with a lid and cook on a small to medium heat until the rolls are cooked through.
Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving plate.
To reheat, simply pop the rolls in the oven until hot.