Braised Cabbage, The Simple Side Dish That Makes For Repeat Eating

Braised cabbage, the simple side dish that makes for repeat eatingAt the ripe age of 91, Yoshiko Tatsumi is active as a cooking specialist, still putting to good use the training she received from her mother, Hamako Tatsumi, the cooking expert.
Tatsumi is also a social activist with a focus on food. To promote self-sufficiency through food, she launched the “Planting of 100 soybean seeds movement,” where children grow and harvest soybeans.

She speaks out on food safety and also stresses the importance of nursing care and life itself through her soup-making lessons. Her direct yet warm writings have attracted a legion of fans, and Tatsumi has published more than 40 books to date.

During her long career as a cooking specialist, she has proposed ways to handle and cook various ingredients. One of the culminations of her work is the “Shun o ajiwau” (Savoring the seasons) column that ran in The Asahi Shimbun in fiscal 1996 and 1997. The articles she wrote appealed to many readers.

She often cited braising, a “steam-sautee” method used in Western-style cooking. Back then, she wrote in one of her articles on “kenchin-jiru,” (soup with tofu and root vegetables): “Traditionally, when you sautee root vegetables in kenchin-style, you cook with a bit of oil and then add water right away. This way, it is likely to end up as a simmered dish. By braising, you use a bit of oil and rely on the water content of the ingredients as the other source of energy. The ingredients are braised over low heat under a lid until they become mostly tender.”

Braising allows us to draw out the “umami” savory flavor of each vegetable.

Cabbage is braised in this week’s recipe. It is not difficult if you are careful with the low heat. Bacon is boiled briefly to remove the distinct smoky flavor. A small amount of vinegar is poured at the end to reduce the cabbage smell. Although it is unspectacular, the dish is sure to disappear in no time even if you make a large amount. And you’re sure to feel like making it again.

When we visited Tatsumi at her home, she showed us a letter from an elementary school pupil who made this dish.

“It was hard to peel the cabbage leaves so that they did not tear into small pieces. But I think it turned out to be very tasty. I would like to cook another dish and eat it. From Kenta Kosuda.”

“You go through this kind of experience again and again, and you accumulate them in your mind,” said Tatsumi, looking happy.

Born in Tokyo in 1924, Tatsumi learned home cooking from her mother. She has proposed unique cooking methods including “murashi itame” (braising) and “tenkai ryori” (evolved cooking).

Her experience of caring for her aged father prompted her to teach making soup. She is an advocate of a variety of issues including self-sufficiency and food safety.


Amount easy to make:

About 1 kilogram cabbage

3 to 4 bacon slices (3-mm thick)

100 grams onion

1 clove garlic

1 laurel leaf

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 to 1.5 Tbsp vinegar

Salt and pepper


Peel cabbage leaves one at a time. Cut off core from leaves. Chop leaves into large pieces. Slice core at an angle and leave aside.

Cut off smoked rim from bacon slices, boil briefly. Pour bit of olive oil (not listed above), cook bacon over low heat. Remove bacon, throw away fat in pan.

Add olive oil in same pan, place sliced onion and garlic, and laurel. Place lid, lower heat, braise until pungent smell is gone. Add cabbage core after some time.

Add leaves, starting with the outer ones. Sprinkle on salt. When halfway done, mix content, lay remaining leaves on top and sprinkle with salt.

Return bacon to pan. Place lid, continue to braise over low heat.

When the leaves that were added later are half done, turn over content. Add salt and pepper to taste. When content has become sufficiently tender, sprinkle vinegar.