3.330 Swedish Kåldolmar (with recipe)


30 (Sat) November 2012



by me

at home

-Oksu, Seongdeong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with W and DJ

Project 30/30/30: 30 of 45 (see also 45/45/45)

Throughout this November, I am challenging myself to eat 30 dishes from 30 countries over the course of 30 consecutive days.

Sweden is the 30th and final country.

Kåldolmar is a Swedish dish.  It’s a cabbage roll stuffed with rice and meat (pork and/or beef), usually served with lingonberry jam and/or gravy.  As the name of the dish may suggest, it was derived from the Turkish dolma, a broad category of stuffed vegetable dishes.  Or so the story goes, upon the return of King Charles XII to Sweden in 1711 after spending 2 years exiled in the Ottoman Empire, he was accompanied by a band of merry Turks, who introduced their beloved stuffing technique to the local Swedes during their stay.  In fact, every November 30, the day that the king died in 1718, Sweden celebrates Kåldomens Dag (“Day of the Cabbage Roll”) to “hail the multifaceted Swedish cultural heritage involving national symbols with immigrant background.”

Korean-Swedish Culinary Exchange (2) (see also KSCX)

Following my first attempt at Swedish cuisine (see 3.292 Köttbullar), I was determined to try something more ambitious for the final installment of Project 30/30/30.  When I asked Number One Swedish Fan GK about kåldolmar, he replied:

Actually, if you would be able to find a good recipe and make it, that would be truly amazing. Kåldolmar is a dish that most Swedes at least had in school a couple of times or maybe also at lunch restaurants (or at some fancy restaurant specializing in Swedish traditional dishes). But very few have made it at home. I doubt you can buy it “premade” in the store as well.  I really like it, but haven’t had it in a while. Hearing it is a little bit of a hassle to make have kept me from actually getting around to making it myself. I can actually only think of one friend who I know have made it at his or her home…

And since I wanted the finale of 30/30/30 to be something special, significant, substantial, kåldolmar fit the bill perfectly, especially with Kåldomens Dag happening to fall on the very day.

Our local convenience store just happened to have Absolut.

Though lacking a frame of reference, I’d humbly suggest that the kåldolmar turned out quite well.  I developed my own recipe, an amalgamation of several from the internet.  The filling of ground beef and milk-braised rice was lusciously soft and rich, as was the sauce of beef stovk and cream, all kept in balance by the cabbage leaf’s sweet austerity.  A touch of ground nutmeg gave the dish a subtle yet unmistakable hint of flavor that, whether accurate or not, I’ve come to associate with Swedish cuisine.  In fact, the kåldolmar was very similar to the meatballs, only more sophisticated.  I thought that the sauce might benefit with a roux or some corn starch to thicken it up, but W preferred it thin, like a soup.  Indeed, it paired very well with a baguette.  While W was gracious enough to give the dish a 4.0, I’ll leave it at 3.5.

If I’d had lingonberry jam, this would’ve been 4.0.

I am happy enough with the outcome that I will post the working recipe, which was partly improvised, constantly tweaked during the process.  I will retest the measurements in subsequent applications.


1 large head (about 1.5 kg) cabbage
2 liters water
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup rice
1/2 cup water
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
300 g ground beef
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp butter (or as needed)
2 cups beef stock
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 cup cream
salt to taste

1.  Cut away the cabbage core.

2.  Fill a large stockpot with water and salt, bring to a boil, and parboil the cabbage until the large outer leaves begin to soften (about 5 minutes).

Tip: While boiling, each outer layer of leaf can be peeled off one by one and removed from the water, which facilitates the inner layers to cook.  

3.  Separate the outer leaves, rinse them under cold water, and pat them dry.

4.  Slice off the remaining spine running down the center of each leaf and trim the leaf into a semicircle.

5.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan over low heat, stir the rice with the water until most of the water has been absorbed (about 10 minutes).

6.  Add the milk and continue to stir until the rice is soft and the mix achieves the consistency of porridge (about 20 minutes).

7.  Add the rice to the beef along with the seasonings and combine thoroughly.

8. Spread 1.5 tablespoons of the filling on each leaf, fold in the sides, roll it up from the base, and secure the top edge of the leaf to the main body of the roll with a toothpick.

Note: I had some difficulty at this stage and wasted several leafs trying to master the rolling technique, which I never really did, so I wasn’t in a frame of mind to take pictures at the time; the waste of leafs also resulted in a handful of leftover filling, enough for about 4 rolls, though my pan wouldn’t have been able to accommodate any more rolls anyway.

Tip: The greener outer leafs are much easier to roll, as they are thinner and have less ridges; next time, I might try 2 cabbage heads and using the 8 outmost leafs from each.  

9.  Working in batches, sauté the rolls with butter in a pan over low-medium heat until they begin to brown (about 1-2 minutes per side.

10. In a deep-sided pan, arrange the rolls in a single layer (toothpick side up) and add the beef stock until the liquid comes to the top of the rolls.

11. Cover and simmer until the rolls are completely soft (about 20 minutes).

12. Remove from the heat and add the cream and white pepper, as well as additional salt to taste.

13.  Serve.

Tip: Swedish vodka!


Me: Meanwhile, back in Sweden, GK was also getting busy.  This time, he attempted bibimbap, a much more ambitious undertaking than his first offering.

GK: The namul [clockwise from bottom right]:

  1. Zuccini.  Thinly sliced, sauted with a pinch of salt.  I should’ve sliced them much thinner, but didn’t feel for it tonight.
  2. Mushrooms. Both shittake mushrooms and champignon mushrooms (or maybe the correct is “meadow mushrooms.” Anyway, the shiitake were so damn expensive I didn’t want to buy too much of them.  The mushrooms were sauted with vegetable oil and some soy sauce
    plus sugar for a couple of minutes.
  3. Carrots, which I should’ve sliced much much much thinner, but I just didn’t feel for spending so much time on it. I’ve never properly learn how to slice something really thinly (is it called “julienning”?).  I fried them quickly with some vegetable oil.
  4. Cucumbers, marinated with 고추가루, vinegar and salt.
  5. Spinach, marinated in just some sesame oil and salt.

GK: After preparing the namul, I cooked for rice and fried two eggs. I then assembled the dish with all of the above ingredients plus gochujang (고추장).  I really wished I would have had a proper pot, a  dolsot (돌솥). The bowl I used was too small for me to properly mix the ingredients without spilling some stuff outside.

It tasted pretty much as I remember it, probably because the gochujang supplied a major part of the taste of the dish… The rice felt kinda off, probably because I used rice from Thailand, which I guess is of a different type than the one in Korea.

Overall it wasn’t that difficult to make, except the slicing of the carrots and the zucchinis. Plus that I wish I would’ve had a dolsot. A dolsot is definitely going to be on my shopping list next time I go to Korea! Maybe I should’ve added some sesame oil on everything, but since the recipe I followed for most of the namuls (the Swedish language Korean cooking book which I also used for making my own kimchi) didn’t tell me to add it, plus that sesame oil was already present in a lot of the namuls, I didn’t feel the need to add it.


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