Saturday, July 3, 2010

Honey, I have strunk the cabbages...

These miniature cabbages are definitely not the result of the recent cold snaps that hit Sydney and its rural areas or those delicate handcrafted ceramic souvenirs you buy in Bangkok. These perfect miniature versions of cabbage known as Brussels sprouts come as no surprise to many, since they are closely related and both belong to the Brassica family of vegetables that include cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi. Unlike the leafy warm-climate Asian vegetables like choy sum, bok choy and ong choy which are susceptible to the slighltest frost, the Brussels sprouts love the cold. Without exception, they need a cold, frosty winter to grow and flourish. These quintessentially winter vegetables are tastiest after a good stiff frost. Although the sprouts look and taste like cabbages but they don't grow like a cabbage. They are buds which form like a spiral staircase up a central stalk of the plant. The stalk grows to about a metre high and the sprouts maturing over several weeks from the lower to the upper part of the stalk.
My son is not a great fan of the Brussels sprouts because he still remembers the sulfurous odour of the overcooked sprouts we mixed into his rice porridge and given to him when he was a baby. The odor is the reason many people profess to dislike Brussels sprouts, if they've only tried them overcooked with the accompanying sulfurous taste and smell. Generally 6–7 minutes boiled or steamed is enough to cook them thoroughly, without overcooking and releasing the sinigrin. When buying Brussels sprouts, choose those which are firm, compact and vivid green. They should be free of yellowed or wilted leaves and should not be puffy or soft in texture.Finally choose those of equal size to ensure that they will cook evenly. Before cooking, we usually cut a cross in center of the stem or cut the sprouts into halves, this aid the penetration of the steam or to allow the heat to permeate throughout the sprout while cooking.
Perfectly cooked Brussels sprouts have a crisp, dense texture and a slightly sweet, bright and "green" taste, which we find to be a good substitute and immensely compatible with my mother in law's karabu recipe.

Brussels Sprouts Karabu Recipe:

500 gm Brussels sprouts
5 pcs shallots or one small red onion (thinly sliced)
2 Tbsp kerisik (toasted grated coconut)

Dressing Sauce:

2 Tbsp sambal belachan
50g dried prawn, soaked and pound
1/4 cup lime juice
11/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt.

Before washing Brussels sprouts, remove stems and any yellow or discolored leaves. Bring a pot of water to boil and put in the Brussels sprouts. Cook sprouts for 5 minutes and empty them into a colander. Rinse the sprouts under cold running water to prevent further cooking. Halve or quarter the sprouts. Mix the lime juice into the dressing ingredient and stir until the sugar dissolves. Toss the Brussels sprouts, sliced onion and toasted coconut in a salad bowl. Enjoy.


  1. Nice. This time of year is great for brussel sprouts. My favorite way of preparing them is to steam, then blanch in ice water to refresh. Then fry the halves in butter with proscuitto. Grind on black pepper.... delicious!

  2. Hi LD,
    I am trying to propagate some clamansi plants for you and others during the plant's winter dormancy. Wish me luck.


  3. Wow. Many Thanks!
    I'm wishing you every success!!!

  4. yeah,.. this veg is not many ppl fav,. but looking at your belachan recipe, iam very tempted to try. thanks

  5. Hi Mrs T.
    Thanks for your visit to my blog. Hope you like them with belachan recipe.

  6. This reply is almost two and a half years later.
    In my ignorance, for most of my life I mis-associated Brussels sprouts with local mung bean sprouts here.

    Even after I later encountered and ate the larger-headed soy(a) bean sprouts, pea shoots (doumiao 豆苗) and even alfalfa sprouts, I did not recently look up Wikipedia about these really different kind of sprouts, which I could and should have.
    Until only a few years back, when I saw and ate them for the first time, served in a buffet.

    I like your likening them to tiny cabbages.
    My slow mind has been unable to make that connection, until you mentioned it. :-)

    Have you tried broccoli sprouts?
    I haven't found them before, or known of them until now: