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Moo Shu Pork - my favorite Chinese (American!) dish

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Recently, I came to the realization that I seem to (sub-consciously) always order this dish when I go to a Chinese restaurant that I have never been to before. I guess it would make it my "measure of a restaurant" dish.

For a simple, straight-forward preparation, I have encountered some variables.

>Ingredients<
- May vary - but in a deconstruction - its base should always yield: egg, cabbage, green onion, black ear fungus and of course pork. Have you seen anything else added to this base? To detriment? I have seen bean sprouts, celery, bamboo shoot, and even straight onion.

>Pancakes<
- 2 schools:
(1) "Lets just use some flour tortillas." Which is ok by me as long as they are heated, reasonably thin, and tasty.
(2) "Extra Mile." Traditional Madarin pancakes - very thin, and brittle. Either frozen pre-made, or the best - made by the restaurant.
(Aside) Why does it always seem like pulling nails when you try to get extra pancakes?

>Sauce & Accompniments<
- Hoisin
- Plum
I have always have had served alongside. Can anyone deconstruct the differences between the two. So far what I know is:
Hoisin is considered chinese bbq sauce: its sweet, salty, syrupy and has an element of soy and star anise.
Plum is a sauce with a base of dried plums?
Please correct me.

- Raw green onion
Only served to me once on the side.

>Question<
Should the Moo Shu mixture be fried sans any soy element or with a slight saucing?

What/why (is it)/where is your favorite Moo shu?

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  1. If you like moo shu pork, you should try the beef version they serve at some Islamic Chinese restaurants. It comes with a large, pancake-like omelet draped on top, which lends an interesting texture and flavor element.

    1. Pancakes:

      I hope no restaurant is giving you flour tortillas. I use them at home, with cooked chichen and some scallion, for a quick meal, but never at a restaurant. Mandarin Pancakes, yes, and/or the type of buns I've seen recently at some new "we're really authentic" restaurants, which are steamed bready circles about 1/2" thick, maybe 3" across, partially split like a hamburger roll. These get served with peking duck and a wonderful dish of (one order for a whole table of very thin people) fatty pork belly.

      Raw green onion - Gotta have it. What restaurants you been goin' to, that serve tortillas and don't supply julienned scallion? Never go there again!

      Fried without sauce? Well, the meat should be marinated and drained, the cook might add a few drops of seasoning during cooking, but when it's done the ingredients seem to always release so much liquid that the pancakes get soaked through. But a bit of flavor is needed - ideally, the marinated meat gets cooked over high heat, and sauce gets reduced completely, and the vegetables get cooked very briefly and pick up any flavor remaining in the wok.

      1. Im chinese but I got no clue what moo shu is and I was born and raised in the states lol. I have never eaten at a americanized chinese resturant. The thing I do know about moo shu is they use plum sauce, hoisin is just too strong.

        2 Replies
        1. re: x524x

          I have never seen plum sauce with my moo shu, only hoisin

          1. re: MVNYC

            i got plum served to me last week.

        2. Actually I don't think moo shu pork is an American-Chinese dish, as I remembered my Mom making it when I was small and she cooks traditional dishes.

          I think she also used bamboo shoots, and sliced shitake mushrooms. Sauce is always hoisin. Never raw green onions, and the moo shu is stirred fried with soy.

          I hardly ever order moo shu pork in restaurants. Could have sweared that I saw the mandarin style pancakes even at Chinese grocery stores, so I don't know why the restaurant will give you tortillas.

          2 Replies
          1. re: notmartha

            In China, is this a regional dish? The pancakes are wheat based, and used with Beijing Duck. Are there any other dishes that use these?

            I vaguly recall recipes that specify using a green onion as the brush to pain the sauce on the pancake.

            Is hoisin a regional sauce?

            paulj

            1. re: paulj

              Maybe this article on wiki will give you better answers:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_shu

              My parents came from Shanghai, so I suspect it is more northern than southern.

              I have only seen the wrappers for the moo shu and peking duck. Some restaurants uses the doughy buns for the peking duck also.

              Only seen the green onion dipped in hoisin for peking duck. But I am not an expertise on all chinese regional cuisine.

              Hoisin is used in cantonese food as well. The most common usage is the non-stuffed rice noodle wraps, or turnip cakes. It's also very common condiment in the vietnamese pho places.

          2. Ming Tsai had his parents on a show to make homemade moo shoo pork. I'm pretty sure this is the recipe from that episode. It was fun to watch, but I haven't made it yet.

            http://www.ming.com/simplyming/showre...

            2 Replies
            1. re: bear

              I recall that Ming used an air compressor to inflate the skin of a duck as part of his short-cut Beijing Duck dish on Iron Chef America. I don't recall, though, whether he used something like the Mandarin pancakes and scallion brushes in the presentation.

              paulj

              1. re: paulj

                I'm almost certain that he used the Mandarin pancakes, but I'm not sure about the scallion brushes either.

                In any event, they are both called for in the recipe.

                In a pinch, rather than using flour tortillas, I would buy frozen mandarin pancakes at a decent Asian market.

            2. I love Moo Shu, whether pork or shrimp. The two pancakes I have seen are the traditional mandarin ones which are floury and somewhat reminscent of tortillas. The other kind at the cheaper Chinese restaurant are the ones clearly not made in house and slightly rubbery. I also prefer cabage, scallion, wood ear, egg and meat. It should be moderately juicy and not too dry or saucy.

              1. i added tiger lily buds when i made it. recipe called for it, and i hunted it down at a large asian market nearby.

                restos ARE skimpy with giving out more pancakes, as if they were made of gold....i don't get it, either.

                4 Replies
                1. re: alkapal

                  Properly done the pancakes are labor intensive. If I recall correctly one step is to put cakes together with a coating of sesame oil between, then roll them again to reduce thickness even further. I don't recall whether they are peeled apart before or after cooking. It's been a long time since I made these. I'm not surprised that some would prefer to substitute a flour tortilla.

                  With a much more expensive, and labor intensive dish like Beijing duck, the relative cost of the pancakes is less.

                  paulj

                  1. re: paulj

                    thanks, paulj, that makes sense.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      Here's a recipe:

                      http://chinesefood.about.com/od/beiji...

                      and mu shu recipe (and discussion), she even mentions 'mu shu wraps' :
                      )http://chinesefood.about.com/od/pork/...

                      1. re: paulj

                        yeah, i just found that recipe, too:
                        http://chinesefood.about.com/od/pork/...

                        while i am not in front of my chinese cookbooks right now, this recipe looks about right...

                2. anyone else have recipes, as much as i like ming tsai, something about that recipe seems off (imho).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: spinach

                    Normally the recipes are more involved/have more ingredients, but I took the "mom & pop" in his recipe's title to be the equivalent of "homestyle" - ie, simpler, more suited for normal prep in a home kitchen rather than a restaurant kitchen.

                    1. re: spinach

                      With the exception of the lime in the hoisin sauce, and the scallion, it looked very similiar to the one my Mom made when I was little. Guess now I have to try it. Moo shu is never supposed to be a fancy dish.