Moo Shu Pork with Mandarin Pancakes for Daring Cooks

This is a tale of two dinners.  The first, due to major pancake error, was served on rice instead of the cute, authentic Chinese Pancakes.  And, just so you know, those pancakes do roll out very nicely.  The dough is easy to work with, the recipe simplicity itself.  Just don't stack your uncooked, painstakingly rolled out, darling little cakes, cover them with a damp towel, and then go have a wine and chips break.  It won't work.  You will come back to this:
A gooey, stuck together pile of unusable dough, which you will then have to throw out, muttering under your breath (we won't curse, will we?) and have another glass of that wine.

Also, I must confess, that whilst rolling out the pancakes, there was already some mental grumbling going on.  Like making a batch of crepes is so much easier, and you can use flour that isn't white refined, and said to be bad for you, plus which there are lovely eggs, butter and milk in them.  This is taking too long, I'll never do this again, blah blah blah.  So after all that work, to face actually doing it again, was God teaching me a lesson almost too much, but we persist with challenges around here.

The October Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by Shelley of C Mom Cook and her sister Ruth of The Crafts of Mommyhood. They challenged us to bring a taste of the East into our home kitchens by making our own Moo Shu, including thin pancakes, stir fry and sauce.  Deh-Ta Hsiung, a renowned authority on Chinese cuisine, published a beautiful book called The Chinese Kitchen, which was a source for our recipes.

For round two I used the alternate technique given - squished together double pancakes with sesame oil in between, which you pull apart, after cooking.  Just to vary my life. BUT NOT leaving them stacked, uncooked with a damp towel over.  We frequently learn our lessons the hard way.

For the pork stir fry section of the recipe, I used a precious, naturally raised, too expensive, pork butt.  On the plus side, it was slow roasted for our Sunday dinner of pulled pork tacos (which did taste fabulous), leaving plenty left over for both of my Moo Shu attempts.  So, we did get three dinners out of that yummy butt.  My personal opinion of canned bamboo shoots and dried black fungus, being what it is, (say no more) I substituted slivers of fresh carrot and shitake mushrooms.  I will give the recipes unchanged however.

Thin Pancakes

Makes 24-30 pancakes (I cut the recipe in half)
Preparation time: about 10 minutes plus 30 minutes' standing time
Cooking time: 45-50 minutes

4 cups (960 ml) (560 gm) (19¾ oz) all purpose flour
About 1½ cup (300ml) (10 fl oz) boiling water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vegetable oil
Dry flour for dusting


   1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Gently pour in the water, stirring as you pour, then stir in the oil. Knead the mixture into a soft but firm dough. If your dough is dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time, to reach the right consistency. Cover with a damp towel and let stand for about 30 minutes.
   2. Lightly dust the surface of a worktop with dry flour. Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes or until smooth, then divide into 3 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a long sausage and cut each sausage into 8-10 pieces. Keep the dough that you are not actively working with covered with a lightly damp dish cloth to keep it from drying out.
   3. Roll each piece into a ball, then, using the palm of your hand, press each piece into a flat pancake. Dust the worktop with more dry flour. Flatten each pancake into a 6 to 8 inch (15 cm to 20 cm) circle with a rolling pin, rolling gently on both sides.  Note: If you are not going to fry as you go, they need to be dusted with flour, separated with parchment or waxed paper, and covered with saran wrap so they don't all stick together.
   4. Place an un-greased frying pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot, lower the heat to low and place the pancakes, one at a time, in the pan. Remove when little light-brown spots appear on the underside. Cover with a damp cloth until ready to serve.

Alternate method for preparing the pancakes:
Working two pieces at a time, roll each piece into a three inch pancake. Using a pastry brush, brush sesame oil onto the top of one of the pancakes, and top it with the other pancake. Further roll the doubled pancake into a 6 to 8 inch circle (not all the way to the edges) and cook as the above alternate method. This method was actually our favorite of the three, and yielded the best results – very thin pancakes that held up a little better and had the most authentic texture. We had the best luck brushing a bit of sesame oil on both circles of dough, then sandwiching them together. Separate pancakes after cooking - Just be careful separating the pancakes after cooking them on both sides – heat (steam) does get caught between them, so don't burn your fingers!

    * Be sure to use very hot-to-boiling water, as it helps relax the gluten, which will aid in rolling the pancakes super thin.
    * Adjust the heat of your pan as needed to cook the pancakes without burning them. I had to keep my burner on medium (rather than low) heat in order for my pancakes to cook properly (low was drying them out too much without cooking them fully), so watch your pancakes carefully.
    * If the pancakes are not to be used as soon as they are cooked, they can be warmed up, either in a steamer for 5-6 minutes, or in a microwave oven for 20-30 seconds, depending on the power.

Moo Shu Pork
Serves 4
Preparation time: 25-30 minutes
Cooking time: 6-8 minutes

2/3 cup (1 oz) (30 gm) Dried black fungus ('wood ears')
½ lb (450 gm) pork loin or butt - Note that tofu, chicken or beef may be used instead
¾ cup (3½ oz) (100 gm) bamboo shoots, thinly cut
3 cups (6 oz) (170 gm) Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage), thinly cut
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
4 tablespoons (60 ml) vegetable oil
2 scallions
1 tablespoon (15 ml) light soy sauce
2 teaspoons (10 ml) rice wine
A few drops sesame oil
12 thin pancakes to serve

   1. Soak the fungus in warm water for 10-15 minutes, rinse and drain. Discard any hard stalks, then thinly shred.
   2. Thinly cut the pork, bamboo shoots and Chinese cabbage into matchstick-sized shreds.
   3. Lightly beat the eggs with a pinch of salt.
   4. Heat about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil in a preheated wok and scramble the eggs until set, but not too hard. Remove and keep to one side.
   5. Heat the remaining oil. Stir-fry the shredded pork for about 1 minute or until the color changes. Add the fungus, bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage and scallions. Stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes, then add the remaining salt, soy sauce and wine. Blend well and continue stirring for another 2 minutes. Add the scrambled eggs, stirring to break them into small bits. Add the sesame oil and blend well.
   6. To serve: place about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of hot Moo Shu in the center of a warm pancake, rolling it into a parcel with the bottom end turned up to prevent the contents from falling out. Eat with your fingers. (See Final Preparation and Serving section below for more complete details.)

Notes: (from Daring Cooks' Oct. hosts)
    * I have used white mushrooms and dried black mushrooms in this recipe, but any variety of mushrooms, either fresh or reconstituted dry, can be used.
    * I did all of my chopping ahead of time and set all of the chopped ingredients aside in separate bowls. The cutting was the longest part of the process. Once I started cooking, it really came together quickly and beautifully.
    * In a pinch, you can use pre-chopped cabbage, usually sold as a cole slaw blend, as the basis of your Moo Shu.
    * If the stir fry is ready ahead of time, you can reduce the burner to low and cover the pan until you are ready to serve.
Scallions with some slits at the white end make dandy little brushes for the sauce.

Hoisin Sauce
(source: http://recipes.epicurean.com/recipe/13249/hoisin-sauce.html)

4 tablespoons (60 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) peanut butter OR black bean paste
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey OR molasses
2 teaspoons (10 ml) white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon (⅔ ml) garlic powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) sesame seed oil
20 drops (¼ teaspoon) Chinese style hot sauce (optional, depending on how hot you want your hoisin sauce)
1/8 teaspoon (⅔ ml) black pepper

Simply mix all of the ingredients together by hand using a sturdy spoon.
At first it does not appear like it will mix, but keep at it just a bit longer and your sauce will come together.

Final Preparation and Serving:
Each of the three components that comprise the complete Moo Shu dish are served separately, and the diner prepares each serving on his or her own plate. Most restaurants provide four pancakes, a serving of Moo-Shu and a small dish of hoisin sauce as a single serving. To prepare each pancake for eating, the following is the most common process: a small amount of hoisin sauce is spread onto the pancake (a scallion brush can be used for this), on top of which a spoonful of the stir-fry is placed. In order to prevent (or, realistically, minimize) the filling from spilling out while eating, the bottom of the pancake is folded up, then the pancake is rolled, similarly to a soft taco. Once rolled, the prepared pancake is eaten immediately.

Moo Shu is a delicious dish of of contrasts, of soft pancakes with a touch of crispyness, rolled around a crunchy stir-fry with moist pork and spicy hoisin sauce.  So, after all is said and done, I am glad to have had the experience of making my own.


Swathi said...

Nice Chinese pancake, love the filling even though i won't eat any pork.

Claudia said...

I think it would also be good with tofu, chicken or fish, Swathi.

shelley c. said...

I am so sorry about the trouble with your first batch of pancakes, but you MORE than made up for it with your second effort, as well as with your gorgeous Moo Shu. Wonderful job! Thank you so much for cooking with us this month.

Lisa said...

Oh, I had a time with my first few pancakes too. I had to post a photo of the mess lol However, like you - it settled down and finally success. Your Moo Shu, sauce and pancakes look fantastic! Love that you used a naaturally raised pork butt. Since you ive in Hawaii, did you catch it yourself? lol J/K in reference to the wild pigs/boars there :)

Ruth Ellis said...

Pancakes take 2 look perfect. Love the little spring onion 'brushes' too - a fun touch!

Claudia said...

Thanks Shelley and Ruth. Lisa, I have used locally caught wild boar, but this one was from the Mainland.

Renata said...

Not only the Moo Shu, but all your three dinners with the pork butt sound delicious! Sorry to hear about the trouble with the first batch of pancakes. In the end they look fantastic and I love the charming brush, I made one myself but completely forgot about it at serving time :/

sophiesfoodiefiles said...

I never tasted a scrumptious meal like this one!I will have to try this feast for the eyes!

MMMMMMMMM,...!!!!! Lovely pictures too, Claudia!:)

Monkeyshines in the Kitchen said...

LOL! I can't count the times that I've messed up dinner while taking a little break.. But persistence pays off - your final mu shu looks lovely!

Quay Po Cooks said...

I made Western pancake all the time but have not made any Chinese pancakes before. After seeing yours, I would like to make some soon. The Moo soo sauce sounds great.