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Recipe: Bai's Spicy Cabbage Rolls

June 30, 2023 12:59 IST
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If you are 101 per cent food-obsessed like me, a memory of something once eaten long ago can irritatingly set your wheels turning. And they won't stop their whirling till you can locate the recipe for the dish you suddenly remembered. And then go into the kitchen and actually make it.

A sweet memory came to me the other day of standing in the kitchen, as a child of 7 or 8 and watching my Estonian mother, who was a great cook of Indian food, cheerfully frying spicy stuffed cabbage rolls.

I remember their fragrance -- I could almost smell them as I thought about them -- and how delicious they tasted after you bit through the crunchy cabbage exterior. And I just had to rustle them up myself and eat them again.

My mom's dog-eared, yellowed cooking notebooks, neatly and painstakingly filled by hand, diagrams and all, of the traditional Indian recipes she had learnt from my Madhya Pradeshi dadi and my father's mausi, didn't have the recipe. But I found it among my own recipes.

I had at some point taken it from her fortunately; recipes are so valuable, like treasure.

The stuffing is spicy potato, akin to the interior of a samosa. You place little parcels of the mashed and seasoned potatoes in the centre of a tender cabbage leaf and roll it up. It's dipped in besan or chickpea flour batter and deep fried.

Have the cabbage rolls by themselves as a snack or with tamarind or imli chutney.

Photographs: Zelda Pande

Bai's Spicy Cabbage Rolls

Serves 4-5


  • 1 head medium cabbage

For the stuffing

  • 2 large potatoes, boiled, peeled, mashed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4-5 pods garlic, crushed
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1-inch piece ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp chopped green dhania or coriander or cilantro
  • 1 tsp dhania powder
  • Salt. ½ tsp
  • 1 tbsp oil for the tadka or seasoning
  • 1 tsp rai or mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp hing or asafoetida
  • ½ tsp haldi or turmeric

For the besan coating

  • 1 cup besan or chickpea flour
  • Water
  • Pinch salt

For assembly and frying

  • Green onions stalks
  • Oil for deep frying


For the stuffing

  • In a frying pan or kadhai, heat the oil for the tadka over medium heat.
    Add the rai and hing and allow it to crackle for a minute.
    Then add the haldi and after 30 seconds the onions and the garlic.
    Fry the onions and the garlic for 1-2 minutes.
    Add the mashed alu, chopped chillies, ginger, salt, dhania powder, green dhania.
  • Mix well and cook for 5 minutes and then take off heat.
  • Keep aside to cool.

For the besan coating:

  • In a bowl, make a not too thick slurry of the besan, water and add a pinch of salt.
    Keep aside.

Cabbage roll assembly


  • Heat the oil for deep frying in a wok or kadhai or deep frying pan.
  • Meanwhile, peel the outer tougher leaves of the cabbage and discard.
    Choose 10-12 softer inner leaves.
    Place on a plate and microwave for a minute.
    Allow them to cool and place them on a wooden board or surface.
    Place 3 tbsp of the alu stuffing in the centre of each cabbage leaf and roll it up tight and tie shut with a green onion stalk.
  • Dip each roll in the besan slurry and then pop into the heated oil, frying each roll one and a time.
    When the outer besan layer crisps up a like a pakoda drain the roll from the oil onto a paper towel or tissue-lined plate.
  • Serve piping hot with imli chutney.

Zelda's Note: To make imli chutney from scratch, do try Sheetal Mahurkar's Imli Chutney.

Lead Image: Kindly note the lead image has been posted only for representational purposes. Photograph: Kind courtesy: Yuval Hoffman/ Wikimedia Commons.

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