Ever since we made pierogi, we have been on a Polish kick. The two most frequently eaten Polish foods in Nicole’s household growing up were pierogi and golabki. Of course after eating many leftover pierogi, she felt the need to revisit the golabki. I had never had or heard of this delicious stuffed cabbage dish until I met Nicole. On our travels to our local farmers market, we discovered a great Polish food cart: Mom Mom’s Polish Food Cart. If you live in Philly, be on the lookout for these guys, the food is delicious. Their golabki was the first I’ve ever had and I was intrigued.
For those who do not know, a golabki is a cabbage stuffed with ground meat and rice. It is baked in a simple tangy tomato sauce until the rice is cooked and tender. As with everything new, I am curious about how someone had the idea of how to make this dish. I like to do some quick research to learn a little about the dish. I guess it’s my inquisitive nature to learn all the little fun facts. At first look, I learned that there were a lot of cabbage dishes from all over the European nations. Of course the only real difference is the seasonings and when they are made. Golabki are generally made in times of celebration and around Christmas time. The Yiddish version of these are known as Holishkes. These specific ones are usually made on Sukkot and Simchat Torrah. From what I gathered, these holidays revolve around traveling to temple and beginning a new cycle of the torah. If you lay two of them together they like the scrolls of the torah I guess. But what’s weirder is that “golabki” roughly translates into “pigeon”. I mean I guess they kinda look like that…Maybe a sleeping bird with their feathers all ruffled. But really I think it refers to their size, like the size of a pigeon. However, that might be their traditional size but we went smaller. It’s cuter that way. Whatever the size, you just need to make sure that the meat is cooked through and the rice is cooked all the way.
A unique thing about this dish is that the tomato sauce is smooth and slightly acidic. At first when I tried it, I thought the acidity came from some sort of cultured cream product like sour cream used to flavor the sauce. I mean, they really like the stuff and use it to garnish a multitude of dishes like the pierogi. It’s like one of their “mother sauces” if you may. I was wrong though, it’s flavored with apple cider vinegar. This is also what gives it a bright red color before it’s baked. I was a little hesitant of it before making it, but the results were perfect. Just the way I have been served and I think pretty close as to how Nicole’s mother made it. I’ve never had those but perhaps someday.
Another thing interesting about this dish, is the use of rice in the filling. This is used to stretch the meat because sometimes it was too expensive. I’m familiar with this technique because we use a similar filling in our stuffed grape leaves at work. The soaked rice will cook in just about the same time as the rest of the filling. Keep in mind that the only way to test if the rice is cooked is to break one open and enjoy. Also don’t forget to make a tester of the filling before you put the rice in. I forget to do this once in a while and then I cook off some of the filling. All I get is crunchy rice surrounded by deliciousness. Anyhow, wrap them up and bake off the delicious suckers.
- 1/2 Onion, Small Dice
- 1 Clove Garlic, Minced
- 1 TBS Tomato Paste
- 1 28oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 TBS Sugar
- 2 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Head Cabbage
- 1/2 Cup Rice, Soaked Overnight
- 1 Lb Ground Meat (Beef or a mixture of pork and beef)
- 1/2 Onion, Grated
- 1 Clove Garlic, Grated
- 1/4 Cup Parsley, Chopped
- 1/4 Cup Dill, Chopped
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1 egg, Beaten
- 1 1/4 tsp Salt
In a medium saucepan, cook onion and garlic on medium-low heat until onions are soft. Stir in tomato paste and a splash of water. Add tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the rest of the prep is ready to go. Before using, buzz up in a blender (or food processor, hand blender, etc.).
Boil a large pot of water. Peel leaves off cabbage one by one. Cook the cabbage leaves in the boiling water until they become see-through (about 3 minutes).
Drop the leaves in cold water directly after the hot. Set aside.
Mix meat, onion, garlic, parsley, dill, paprika, egg, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Cook off a small piece to test seasoning. Adjust if necessary. Add rice in and mix until fully combined.
Stuff the cabbages with the meat mix and roll up. Put some sauce down in a oven proof pot or skillet, then rolls, then more sauce on top. Cover. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees or until the rice is cooked. Serve with more dill!
We really like these little stuffed cabbages and order them every time we see Mom Mom’s food truck. They do breakfast pierogi and kielbasa as well. So good and worth the visit. So if you can’t make it to Clark park on Saturday mornings you now have the option to make your own! We hope you enjoy and make them something special.