Moldova Restaurant's *sarmale* (cabbage rolls)
Friday, 07 January 2022 19:00
Estonian Life No. 1 2022 - Vincent Teetsov
Cabbage rolls have universal popularity, being regularly served out of kitchens from Korea to Bulgaria. Its origins, on the other hand, are less universally agreed upon. For example, in an issue of La Jolla Light
newspaper, food columnist Catherine Kaufman contended that the dish was invented in southwest Asia and made its way to Europe via migration and trade routes. But at the same time, she noted that it made its way to Sweden when King Charles XII came back from a military mission to Moldavia.
Origins aside, though, whoever first decided to make these delicious food “envelopes” was clever. Making a neat, edible package out of hardy cabbage leaves is an appealing way to present vegetables to kids, and it's a great way to contain foods like minced beef, pork, and rice. Each time, it offers a surprise as you poke your fork into the tomato sauce and slice your knife through to the filling.
Of course, in Estonia, they are known as kapsarullid
and have been providing warmth and gastronomical satisfaction for generations.Making them from scratch is a fun family affair:
boiling the cabbage, dolloping the filling inside, and rolling them up. But if you're seeking the essence of this comforting home-cooked meal without setting foot in the kitchen, here are five places you can visit across the GTA.Moldova Restaurant (5000 Dufferin Street Unit #A1, North York, M3H 5T5):
In Moldova, cabbage rolls are called sarmale
. At this laid back spot in the north end of Toronto, rice is combined with meat inside the roll. A great choice of side dish would be mamaliga
, a type of cornmeal porridge, which will balance out the sauce.Barrel House Korchma (2385 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke, M8V 1B7):
Barrel House Korchma explains that, “The word 'Korchma
' translates from Ukrainian to ‘tavern’ or ‘pub’ where food, beer, or ale would be consumed by travelers.”
The Ukrainian word for cabbage rolls, holubtsi
, translated literally into English means “little pigeons”—but this isn't what you'll find inside when you take a bite! This restaurant stuffs them with ground pork; or alternatively, rice, mushrooms, and carrot (a typical variation during Lent). Other versions have buckwheat, potato, or raisins inside.
The restaurant also notes that “Korchmas were popular amongst the cossacks as it was a safe haven for them to grab a bite to eat, drink horilka
(a type of vodka), and have dance-offs with each other.” You may not be up for a dance contest after eating a big meal, but adjacent to this establishment is Mimico Waterfront Park, where you can go for a relaxed stroll with a view of Lake Ontario.Little Bavaria Restaurant (3222 Eglinton Avenue East, Scarborough, M1J 2H6):
East Enders with a craving for the taste of authentic German krautwickel
will be welcomed by a fun interior, with timber framing, walls decorated with ceramic beer steins, and Bavarian memorabilia all around.
This restaurant is great for a May Day or Oktoberfest party. They've been known to host live music and even put up a Maibaum
(Maypole) between tables inside.European Delight (St. Lawrence Market [Lower Level B6], 93 Front Street East, Toronto, M5E 1C3):
European Delight is a family business that's been at St. Lawrence Market since 1999. Chef Oleg Popov makes six different types of cabbage rolls, so you have many options to choose from. Maybe even try one of each. But get there early before they're picked clean!
St. Lawrence Market is a destination all on its own, with 120 or so vendors to shop from and a Saturday Farmer's Market that has brought in the products of Ontario farmers since 1803. So while you're picking up some Polish gołąbki
, you can take a look around and find some other special groceries to bring home.Terrace Take-Away (300 River Oaks Boulevard East, Oakville, L6H 5T1):
Since 2012, Terrace Take-Away has been cooking up a storm of homemade Ukrainian meals (including cabbage rolls) for pick-up or delivery customers in Oakville. You can get food from them on Thursdays, from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, and on Saturdays, from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM. They also provide catering for parties and other events.Get a nice refreshing drink to pair with those kapsarullid, tuck that napkin in your collar, and dig in!
Written by Vincent Teetsov