Have you ever visited Balkan countries during the winter holidays? If yes, chances are you’ve been offered to eat “Sarma”. Most probably, multiple times per day. This traditional comfort food made with minced meat wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves and cooked with bacon has a status of superpower food.
There is a certain belief that eating sarma makes men more manly, while women become more beautiful. Some say it has the power of reversing a hangover. Sarma is also often mentioned in songs and stories. It can be used as a reason to start or end the relationship. Quite a dramatic dish, I would say.
Since in Greece many people don’t even know what sauerkraut or pickled cabbage is, a similar version is prepared with fresh cabbage leaves called Lahanodolmades. Let’s be honest, pickled cabbage takes some getting used to when it comes to smell during cooking.
Besides that, Greeks make it with a different sauce – our beloved Avgolemono. This sauce is made with lemon, eggs and spices (quite Keto friendly). It requires some skills to have a creamy and smooth consistency.
Since I am currently residing in Mostar, (capital of Herzegovina) the town which combines a sort of Mediterranean and continental European cuisine, I decided to make my Greek Keto version for winter holidays. Of course, being a Keto person, I wisely borrowed some good stuff from the Balkan version. They use smoked bacon and red paprika powder.
But what about rice in cabbage rolls?
Unfortunately for Keto people, both Greek and northern Balkan versions contain rice. I am not sure how this became popular, but I am guessing that it happened after the Second World War when rice became the main “filling” agent.
However, a quest to make Lahanodolmades without rice was tempting enough. So, I decided to use sesame seeds instead of rice. Why not? They look almost similar to rice and they will not get overcooked. Furthermore, they will not destroy my Keto macronutrient ratio. Ready for the wrapped adventure? Here’s the recipe: