Why This Humble Veggie Is Suddenly the Star of Restaurant Menus

Cabbage food trend

Is cabbage the new cauliflower? Based on restaurant menus around the world, it seems so. In Australia, cooked cabbage is served at Firedoor, Lana and Maydanoz in Sydney and Three Blue Ducks with locations around NSW.

“A lot of veggies go in and out of style,” says Darren Robertson, chef and co-owner of Three Blue Ducks. “There was an influx of cauliflower dishes on menus when chefs realised the potential in something that can be roasted in wood-fired ovens or cooked like a steak.”

Lennox Hastie, chef and co-owner of Firedoor, likens cabbage’s popularity to broccolini, which was once on every menu. Then, it was the purple carrot, introduced by Peter Gilmore. Pumpkin wedges were also on-trend. Cabbage at Firedoor is woodfired with roasted chicken skin, drizzled in smoked buttermilk and served with turnip kimchi.

Three Blue Ducks cabbage food trend

“People are suddenly spellbound by the creativity of cabbage,” says Hastie. “Most of their childhood experiences are of having it boiled to death when it turns to a bitter mush.”

“When roasted in a pan or over the fire, cabbage develops a rich, caramelised, nutty sweetness, with charred crispy edges that contrasts with the juicy interior. It’s the kind of ingredient that absorbs a lot of flavour.”

Cabbage gives chefs the opportunity for creativity, allowing them to experiment with flavours, textures and cooking techniques, says Arman Uz, group executive chef of hospitality company Efendy Group. “Like cauliflower, cabbage can be used in many ways, but cabbage has the added benefit of being crisp, crunchy and refreshing.”

Wood roasted cabbage
Image: Three Blue Ducks

After experimenting with vegetables to add to a kebab, Uz found that cabbage worked best because it absorbed the smoke from charcoal.

“At Maydanoz, we always have the cabbage kebab on our menu, which features chargrilled, smoky cabbage with harissa labneh, coriander and Aleppo pepper,” he says. “I use the cabbage offcuts to make pickles. There’s no waste with cabbage.”

Three Blue Ducks also use raw cabbage on its menu. It’s turned into sauerkraut or picked for use in salads throughout the year. This winter, it’s been served as roasted wedges with smoked anchovy butter.

Despite cabbage’s popularity at restaurants, Hastie says it doesn’t necessarily mean cauliflower will stop being served. He says Firedoor’s menu, like with many other restaurants, depends on what’s being grown at Australian farms at any given moment.

“Nobody wants a monoculture, so we celebrate a wide diversity of vegetables throughout the year,” Hastie says. “In fact, we have just moved from a cabbage to a roasted cauliflower dish at Firedoor.”

MORETTA DI VERONELLA cabbage food trend
Image: Instagram @firedoor_surryhills

Hastie says cabbage’s popularity at restaurants will continue, with new varieties starting to appear. While sugarloaf and baby cabbage have been popular, this year, we have seen a new variety of cabbage called Moretta di Veronella.

Grown for the first time in Australia, it’s a traditional winter-harvested savoy cabbage from the Italian village of Veronella. As the weather cools, its green savoy leaves turn a blush deep purple on the exterior. Hastie describes it as bursting with flavour and colour on the plate.

“Cabbage is affordable, has a long shelf life and can accommodate various dietary needs,” Uz says. “While I’m not certain if cabbage is replacing cauliflower, it has certainly found a place on the menus of many talented chefs today.”

Related: The Melbourne Restaurants Hardest to Get Into

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