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Croatia

A Dish from Croatia:

"Sarma" Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

This time, "Cuisine of the World" features Croatian cuisine. We visited the only Croatian restaurant in Japan, "Dobro," with Akihiro Hayashi, who used to visit Croatia every week when he was posted for Marubeni in Slovenia, and heard about how to make "Sarma" stuffed cabbage rolls which are made from rice and meat wrapped in cabbage that has been pickled in salt for 3 weeks.

We heard from Mr. Hayashi, who was posted in Slovenia for Marubeni for 3 and a half years until March 2004, and was also responsible for overseeing a car-related business project in neighboring Croatia.

Mr. Hayashi used to drive to work once every week to Croatia's capital of Zagreb from Slovenia's capital of Ljubljana. In Croatia, every now and then he would take a trip to the suburbs and enjoy the country's rich natural environment. Located about 140 km southeast of Zagreb is Plitvice Lakes National Park, which has been registered as a world heritage site, and where he says he was "moved by the scenery in which lakes are connected by waterfalls." Moreover, he says that the star-filled night sky that he saw during an event which Marubeni held jointly there with a local publisher in which they went on a trip in a four-wheel-drive off-road vehicle with an adventurer was "a sight that even now I cannot forget." He says that he ended up drinking far too much of the high alcohol content drink "Pelinkovac" that night however…

One Japanese person alone in a strange land. When we asked "Did you not have some difficult moments?" Mr. Hayashi responded, "Well, yes, some. But mostly I had no trouble." People used to switch into speaking English when he was around out of kind consideration for him because he could not understand the local language, and his heart was warmed by the simple friendliness of an encounter with an old man at a winery, who made no effort to hard-sell him wine and just poured him a glass, asking him "Where did you say you are from? Come on let's drink!"

So, what about the food? "Everyone used to eat a lot of ‘Sarma' (stuffed cabbage rolls) in cheap local eating places. Not just the ‘Sarma' but Croatian cuisine on the whole was really good too." Mr. Hayashi says his favorite dish was "Teletina ispod peke," which is steamed pork, sprinkled with a special Croatian seasoning called "Vegeta." Thanks to the splendid natural landscape and the warmth of the people, Mr. Hayashi says he was able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in Slovenia and Croatia.

How to Make "Sarma" Stuffed Cabbage Rolls: Serves 4

Ingredients
Cabbage leaves pickled in salt4 large leaves
& a small amount for stewing
Pork mince800g
Onion100g
Garlic3 cloves
Uncooked white rice50g
Bacon100g
Egg1
Parsleya small amount
Red paprika10g
Bay leaves5
Salt, Pepper and Nutmegsome
How to Make
  • 1

    Chop up the bacon into small pieces, grate the garlic and finely cut up the onion. Put all this, the egg and the uncooked rice on top of the pork mince and add the parsley, red paprika powder, salt and pepper, and mix it all together.

  • 2

    Chop up the bacon into small pieces, grate the garlic and finely cut up the onion. Put all this, the egg and the uncooked rice on top of the pork mince and add the parsley, red paprika powder, salt and pepper, and mix it all together.

  • 3

    Trim the thick center vein of the cabbage in advance with a knife. Chop up into small pieces the cabbage (small leaves) that will be used for stewing. Pick up the meat in your hand and squeeze it into the shape of a bale of hay. About 180 to 200g should be used per person. Put the meat onto a cabbage leaf and begin to wrap it up.

  • 4

    After wrapping it up quite firmly, push the edges of the cabbage leaf which are sticking out of both ends into the inside of the cabbage leaf. This should be done firmly so that it does not come apart when stewed.

  • 5

    Lay the pieces of cabbage leaves that you chopped up earlier across the bottom of a pan, and line up the cabbage rolls on top. Put the bay leaves in, sprinkle the red paprika powder on top, and then put in the water. The water should be added until it reaches a level about 2 fingers above the cabbage rolls.

  • 6

    Place an otoshi-buta (drop lid) laid across the surface to cover it and stew over a low heat for about 1 hour. The flavor will be better if you place a heavy item, such as a pan filled with about 1 liter of water, on top of the drop lid. The broth remaining after cooking is used as a soup. If you use cooked rice instead of uncooked rice, about 20 minutes of stewing time will be enough.

Chef's Tips:

How to make salt-pickled cabbage:
* Remove the hard core of 1 whole cabbage and put enough salt into the hole to almost fill it up. Get a rather deep container such as a cooking pot, fill it up with enough salt water to completely submerge the cabbage, and put the cabbage into it. Put a lid on, and after leaving it for about a week at room temperature, put it in the refrigerator. After leaving it in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, it will be ready.
* If you do not have time to pickle the cabbage in salt, if you mix in "sour cabbage," which is available from major supermarkets, when making this recipe, you will be able to achieve a flavor that is close to the real thing.

A dish for which each household has its own recipe and flavor (Mislav Bobic, Chef at "Dobro")

"Sarma" stuffed cabbage rolls is a dish that everyone in Croatia eats. People make it freely in their own way by adapting the ingredients, such as using smoked meat instead of bacon, mixed beef and pork mince instead of pork mince, so that each household has their own flavor. We mainly eat it during the cold season, and every fall people buy up lots of cabbages and make enough salt-pickled cabbage to last until spring in the following year. We put them in a container the size of a large plastic bucket and cover it with a wooden lid with stones placed on top to hold it shut. There is also a custom of making enough to last for several days at the end of the year and eating "Sarma" in the New Year.

Cooperating Restaurant

Dobro
Hitachi Dairoku Bldg. 1F, Kyobashi 2-6-14, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Tel & FAX
03-5250-2055
By public transport
1 min. walk from Exit 6, Kyobashi Station, on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, or 2 min. walk from Takaracho Station, on the Toei Asakusa Line.
Opening hours
11:30 to 14:00, 18:00 to 23:00
* Closed Sundays and Public Holidays

From: “Shareholder’s guide Marubeni,” Vol.96 (published in June 2004)

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