These steamed Chinese stuffed tofu and pork cabbage rolls are the healthier version of the deep fried spring rolls. Vegan? Use mushrooms or cauliflower instead of meat. The spicy sauce with Sichuan chilli oil completes the dish!

Chinese stuffed cabbage rolls in spicy Sichuan chili oil

Chinese stuffed cabbage rolls: Less Meat, More Veggies recipe

For more than 10 years I have been involved in a bicultural research project: the menu of Asian restaurant Jasmijn & Ik (Jasmine & I in Dutch).

The question was always: are these authentic textures and flavours appreciated by the Dutch guests and if not, how far can I go in adapting the dish without Asians viewing me as a “traitor” instead of an innovator?

The lack of contrast appreciated by Asians in flavours and textures were unanimously rejected, as well as the combination of tofu with meat or fish (“Me, carnivore, don’t eat mushy tofu!”). And if it had been steamed (instead of fried crispy) it would have been a very big NO.

Despite that, I’m going to try it again on this blog: a recipe for steamed Chinese tofu and pork stuffed cabbage rolls!

Why? Many people nowadays try to eat vegetarian or even vegan a few times a week. Maybe you too? On the ‘meat days’ you could try to eat less meat than the standard of 100-125 grams per person.

Ingredients needed for the Chinese stuffed cabbage rolls: cabbage, dried shiitake, pressed tofu, vegetables and pork belly

Divide the tofu and pork mixture for the Chinese stuffed cabbage rolls in 8 portions.

This Less-Meat-More-Veggie recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls is for two people. And I only use 125 grams of pork belly. You could of course replace it with other (leaner) meat.

The firm tofu greedily absorbs the gravy from the finely ground pork belly, so the small amount of meat is enough to make the filling taste and feel ‘meaty’.

Vegan Chinese stuffed cabbage rolls? You can use fresh mushrooms or cauliflower instead of meat. And replace oyster sauce with shiitake sauce.

Place the cabbage leaf on a tea towel for easy rolling.

Savoy cabbage, oxheart cabbage or Chinese cabbage?

It doesn’t matter which cabbage you use. The most important thing is that the tough centre vein of the oxheart cabbage or the savoy cabbage is removed. If you use Chinese nappa cabbage you should cut most of the thick lower half of the leaves.

And I wouldn’t try to steam red cabbage in a bamboo basket. Unless you like the dark colour on the basket…

Other things you need to know:

  • Blanch the leaves long enough in boiling water to make them pliable, but not so long that they become too soft and lose colour.
  • Immediately rinse the leaves in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • Before filling, thoroughly pat the leaves dry. Sprinkle with flour to make them even drier.

Chinese stuffed cabbage rolls steamed in a bamboo basket.

Preparing and serving the cabbage rolls

You can make the rolls the day before and keep them in a bamboo basket in the fridge.

The sauce with Sichuan chili oil can also be made in advance.

The preparation takes some time but the next day you only need to cook some rice for a complete Chinese meal.

Steamed Chines stuffed cabbage rolls and spicy Sichuan red oil


Chinese stuffed cabbage rolls in chilli oil

Chinese stuffed cabbage rolls in spicy Sichuan red oil

These steamed Chinese stuffed tofu and pork cabbage rolls are the healthier version of the deep fried spring rolls. Vegan? Use mushrooms or cauliflower instead of meat. The spicy sauce with Sichuan chilli oil completes the dish!

  • Author: Kamwoj
  • Prep Time: 45
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 60
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: main, side, meat,
  • Method: steam
  • Cuisine: Chinese


Tofu filling:

  • 125 g pork belly or other meat or mushrooms 1
  • 250 g firm tofu 2, frozen and then thawed
  • 2 spring onions, the green in thin rings (the white part is used with the shiitakes)
  • 150 g carrot, julienned and then cut into small cubes
  • 10 g ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp rice flour or cornstarch

Stir-fried dried shiitakes:

  • 4 pieces dried shiitakes 3, rinsed, soaked in lukewarm water for at least half an hour. Save the soaking liquid
  • 2 medium shallots, finely minced
  • 2 spring onions, only the white parts and in thin rings
  • ⅛tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar, optional
  • ½ tbsp vegan shiitake sauce or oyster sauce 1
  • ½ tsp sesame oil


8 to 10 leaves, every leaf 15 by 15 cm big after removing the tough parts. Chinese cabbage: remove the thick lower part. Savoy cabbage or oxheart cabbage: cut the centre vein in a upside down V- shape


  • 90 g of the soaking liquid from the shiitakes, freeze the rest
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce or vegan shiitake sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp sugar, optional
  • White pepper
  • 1 tbsp rice flour or cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water


  • 2 tbsp rice flour or cornstarch to dust the cabbage leaves with before stuffing

Spicy sauce with Sichuan oil:

  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
  • 5 tbsp homemade Sichuan chilli oil plus 1 tbsp of the chili from the pot 4, or Sichuan oil from the Asian grocery store
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter 5, optional


  1. Mince the pork belly (or other meat or mushroom) finely in a food processor or use a large knife. Put this in a mixing bowl.
  2. Dab the tofu dry with a clean tea towel and tear it in small pieces. Put the tofu, spring onion white, small carrot cubes and grated ginger together with rice flour or cornstarch in the mixing bowl.
  3. Check if the shiitakes are rehydrated. Cut them in halves and if the centre is still dry, leave to soak for a longer time. Squeeze the liquid from the shiitakes above the bowl. Keep the soaking liquid. Cut the shiitakes into small cubes (about 2 by 2 mm).
  4. Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry shallots over medium heat until they are translucent. Add shiitakes and fry for 2 minutes. Add salt, sugar, oyster sauce (or vegan shiitakes sauce), cooking wine and sesame oil, stir well and fry for 30 sec. Put the fried shiitakes in the mixing bowl as well.
  5. Heat all the ingredients for the marinade, except for the rice flour or cornstarch slurry. As soon as it boils, set the heat source to a medium setting. Add the slurry and stir to bind the marinade. Keep stirring for one minute. Turn off the heat source. Add the marinade to the filling. Mix well.
  6. Taste the filling before moving on to roll: cook a small amount of the filling in the microwave or bake it. Add salt, soy sauce and sugar to taste.
  7. Put a pan with a bottom of water on high heat. Blanch the cabbage leaves briefly until they are just soft and pliable. Rinse under cold running water. Pat dry.
  8. Divide the filling into 8 equal portions. Lay a cabbage leaf flat. Overlap the bottom of the leaf of the savoy and oxheart cabbage where you see the upside down V-shape cut. Sprinkle some rice flour or cornstarch over the leaf. Place the filling at the centre part of the bottom. Fold the sides inwards. Roll further up. Place the rolls, seam side down, in the bamboo basket. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling. If you have time, put the steam basket with the rolls in the fridge for two hours or overnight. The filling will be firmer and the marinade will have more time.
  9. Mix all the ingredients for the Sichuan chili sauce.
  10. Place the bamboo basket on a pan with water. Bring to boil and steam over high heat for 10 minutes.
  11. Place the steam basket with lid on a large plate and serve with the chili sauce and steamed rice.


  1. Vegan: Replace pork with the same weight of fresh mushrooms or cauliflower. Use vegan ‘oyster sauce’ or shiitake sauce. Buy this in an Asian grocery store or make it yourself.
  2. Tofu: freeze the firm or medium firm tofu after purchase. The liquid in the thawed tofu will be easier to press out. See also this blog post.
  3. Dried shiitakes: You can buy these at an Asian grocery store. For this recipe you need the hats only. The stems can be kept in the freezer to make stock later on.
  4. Homemade Sichuan oil: if you use this recipe, use 30 g more chili flakes for an extra spicy oil.
  5. Peanut butter: The peanut butter makes the sauce creamier. You can replace it with Chinese sesame paste or omit this part of the sauce.

Keywords: winter, Chinese, make ahead, healthy, spicy, Sichuan, cabbage, stuffing, lactose free, veganisable


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