I’m from the Midwest. I don’t know if you know this about the Midwest, but it is not, as a rule, a place generally acknowledged for its expansive culinary tastes. In fact, I had neither Indian food nor sushi until I was 18. I blame my parents, for whom black pepper is sometimes “too spicy”. In fact, it was in the Midwest that I first acquired my distaste for American Chinese food. And, so we’re clear, I blame Midwesterners for that. If you’ve ever had sweet and sour chicken in Rochester, Michigan, you’ll understand why.
But, real Chinese food is amazing. It’s fresh, heavy on the vegetables, and is packed with complex flavors. Moo shu pork is a northern Chinese dish consisting of stir fried pork, cabbage, wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallions and scrambled eggs, served rolled up in a flat pancake a bit like a tortilla. Moo shu pork is served with hoisin, a sweet and spicy soy based sauce. So, when moo shu pork came up for October’s Daring Cooks Challenge, (which Sue and I just joined, you can read about it here, basically it’s a community of food bloggers who do a cooking and baking challenge with specific recipes once a month, and blog about the results) it seemed like a good time for me to try my hand at actually following a recipe. I’ll be honest, I didn’t care much for that part. But the moo shu was frigging delicious.
The stir frying part was a breeze. I stir fry things all the time. I don’t overcook the meat OR the vegetables. Ever. The pancakes part was a real pain in the arse, though. You have to roll those things out, one by one, and cook them in a dry pan, ONE BY ONE. Also, the Daring Cooks recipe made twice as many pancakes as were required by the filling amount. The recipe below is for half the pancake dough of what the Daring Cooks recipe called for. Though I will say, those jerky little pancakes were really tasty, and didn’t tear open at all once the filling was in them like soft tacos sometimes do. They’re a bit of a cross between injera, the spongy, slightly elastic bread served with Ethiopian food, and a tortilla. The hoisin sauce recipe was also lovely, though I did buy a bottle of hoisin sauce as well, just in case. But it tasted very similar to the bottled kind. No offense, Daring Cooks, I don’t trust other people’s sauces.
Moo Shu Pork, from the Daring Cooks October Challenge Recipe
1 lb pork tenderloin, sliced thinly
5 scallions, diced
3 cups Napa cabbage, sliced thinly (I used a bag of coleslaw, because, come on)
2 cups shitaake mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 can bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
3 eggs, beaten in a bowl with a pinch of salt
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin, or rice wine vinegar, or orange juice
salt and pepper
Method: In a large frying pan or wok on high heat, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil until shimmering. Pop in the pork pieces, taking care, as they will cook extremely quickly. While each side is cooking, sprinkle a little soy sauce and a little mirin. This will probably take 2-3 batches, don’t crowd the pork in the pan.
When it’s all cooked, remove it to a plate. In the same pan, toss in the mushrooms and whatever is left of the soy sauce and the mirin. Cook, moving it around quickly, for a minute or so. Then, put in the bamboo shoots, and cook for another 30-45 seconds. Then, put in the cabbage and scallions and cook until the cabbage has shrunk to about half its size, moving things around quickly.
Remove everything to a large bowl, pour in the eggs and let them cook for about a minute (the heat is high, things will happen fast!), then put the cabbage/pork mixture back in the pan. Turn off the heat and stir things around for a minute, letting the residual heat from the veggies and meat and the pan finish cooking the eggs.
2 cups flour
3/4 cup boiling water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Method: UGH. Dump the flour into a large mixing bowl, and stir in the water. When it starts to clump up, pour in the vegetable oil and stir until the dough comes together enough to knead it.
Knead the dough into a nice ball, for probably 2-3 minutes, then let it rest in the mixing bowl for 30 minutes, covered by a damp towel. After 30 minutes, flour a nice work surface (I used a granite countertop) and knead the dough for 5 minutes until it’s smooth. When it’s smooth, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, roll each piece out into a long sausage shape and split each sausage shape into 4 pieces. The individual balls should be golf ball sized.
Cover whatever dough you’re not working with a damp kitchen towel to keep them moist. When all the balls are made, roll each one out with a rolling pin (OR an aluminum water bottle, if you don’t have a rolling pin) to about 6 or so inches across.
Apparently they are supposed to be circular, mine mostly looked like Pangaea.
The key, for me, was when the ends of each one started curling upward a bit, they were as thin as they were gonna get. Put them on a plate as you roll them out, and keep the stack covered with a damp kitchen towel. When you’re going through this process, think about how I made twice as many of them, because I didn’t know better, and then feel sorry for me.
When they’re all rolled out, heat a nonstick pan to high and, in the dry pan, cook each pancake. They cook REALLY fast. Like, if your pan is fully hot, they will cook in like 20 seconds a side, if that. You’ll get the hang of it. They will go brown and speckly a bit, but if they start to puff up a lot, you’re cooking them too long and now they’re tortillas.
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp molasses or honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp Sriracha
Method: Whisk together all the ingredients in a jar. Jars are sensible.