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~ Chinatown's Famous Moo Shu (Shredded) Pork ~

IMG_4728After a week of cooking and posting comfort food, I woke up this morning wanting a complete change of palate.  When that happens, it almost always means I want Asian food.  This is one of my "oldie but goodie" Chinese recipes, and, it also just so happens to be the very first Chinese dish I ever tasted!  Here's my humorous, childhood tale (as best as I can recollect it):

Chinese_architecture_Vector_ClipartI was about 10 years old and found myself in a Chinese restaurant in Washington D.C.  I had never been in a Chinese restaurant before, nor, had I ever eaten Chinese food.  I was on a week long sight-seeing "educational/cultural" tour of the D.C. area with my Uncle Al, Aunt Claire and their three children (ages about 10, 8 and 6).  I loved every moment of that trip, until that last night, when my Uncle and Aunt thought they were going to "treat" us kids to "something special"!

I did not want to try anything on the menu (I was a picky pain-in-the-foodie-ass back then).  I wanted a hamburger and I was not alone.  My cousins were not behaving any better.  Before it got too ugly, the waiter (who must have had a degree in child psychology) stepped in.  We four miscreants, reluctantly and with reservation, agreed to try his "Chinese hamburger".  What arrived at the table, just for us kids, was a somewhat large plate of shredded beef.  It was mixed with other things, but we could recognize the carrots.  What happened next, changed the evening.  Each one of us was given our own plate of three ultra-thin pancakes (what kid doesn't love pancakes).  We all filled our pancakes with the "Chinese hamburger", rolled them up, and, ate our dinner.  It took a few years before I learned that "moo" didn't mean beef/cow in Chinese!!!

Preparing moo shu?  All ingredients are shredded not chopped!

IMG_4707A bit about "moo shu" or "mu shu": Meaning "shredded" in Chinese, moo shu hails from Northern China and first appeared in US restaurants in the latter 1960's.  In its traditional form, the dish consists of shredded pork (with beef, chicken or shrimp being perfectly acceptable options), wood ear mushrooms and day-lily buds.  The dish is seasoned with ginger, garlic, scallions, white pepper and soy, hoisin and/or oyster sauces. Because wood ear mushrooms and day lily buds are hard-to-find ingredients (even in their dried forms), modified Chinese-American versions of moo shu often include shredded shiitake mushroom caps (to replace the wood ears) and shredded egg pancake, to replace the color and texture of the day lily buds. Common additions to the recipe are:  shredded bamboo shoots, carrots, a cabbage of some sort (Bok choy, green, or Napa), and, occasionally, bean sprouts.  It is important to note that even in China, recipes for moo shu vary from cook to cook and chef to chef. The dish is traditionally served with a small dish of hoisin sauce and several thin, steamed "moo shu" or "Mandarine-style pancakes".  One-at-a-time, a thin layer of hoisin sauce is spread on each pancake, then it is topped with a bit of meat mixture, quickly wrapped up and eaten immediately (before the pancake gets soggy).  When preparing mu shu, remember:  all ingredients are shredded!

Moo Shu Pork is China's favorite moo shu and mine too!

Do not be afraid of, or intimidated by, the length of this recipe.  Each part is quite easy and fun, and, before you know it, you are going to be eating one of the best meals China has to offer.  So, make a list, take a trip to your local Asian market and get started:

Part One:  Trimming & Marinating the Meat

For the pork and its marinade:

IMG_45052  pounds pork tenderloin, beef tenderloin or chicken tenders, trimmed of all fat and silverskin, sliced as thinly as possible, sliced into 1/4" thick medallions, then, medallions sliced into thin strips

3  tablespoons Lee Kum Kee premium dark soy sauce

2  teaspoons firmly-packed cornstarch

IMG_4510~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and cornstarch.

IMG_4516~ Step 2. Trim and slice the pork tenderloin as directed above and place it in a one-gallon food storage bag as you work.  Add the soy mixture to the bag, zip or twist the bag closed and toss until all of the pork is evenly coated. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Note:  If you have the time, retoss the mixture every 20-30 minutes.

Part Two:  Making the Brown Sauce 

For the brown sauce:

Note:  This delicious, versatile sauce can be made a few days before you make your moo shu.  It yields 1 1/2 cups, which is exactly the amount you are going to need for this recipe, but, it is a great sauce to keep on hand in your refrigerator to use in all sorts of other Asian dishes.  In our house, we use it in place of hoisin sauce.  I often times make a double batch of it just because I like to keep it on hand at all times.  By the way, it takes less than five minutes to make!
















2  tablespoons cold water

1 1/2  teaspoons firmly-packed cornstarch

6  tablespoons Lee Kum Kee premium dark soy sauce

8  tablespoons Lee Kum Kee hoisin sauce

1-2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2  tablespoons Chinese black vinegar (also known and labeled as Chinkiang vinegar)

2  tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar

2  tablespoons Chinese rice wine

2  tablespoons sesame oil

3  tablespoon sugar, more or less, to taste (Note:  I use 3.)

2  teaspoons white pepper, more or less to taste (Note:  I use 2.)

6a0120a8551282970b0148c7a5f446970c-320wi~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cold water and cornstarch until smooth.

~ Step 2.  In a 2-quart saucepan, combine all of the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.  Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the simmering sauce and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the the sauce is "drizzly" and slightly thickened, about 30-60 seconds. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 1-2 hours.

Part Three:  Making the Shredded Egg Pancake 

For the shredded egg pancake:

Note:  Many recipes for moo shu instruct to make nothing more than chopped scrambled eggs, and, you can do that.  It won't affect the taste of the moo shu, but it will affect the texture. Remember, the eggs are being added to imitate the color and texture of the day-lily blossoms. Taking an extra moment to make this pancake is going to make a great final presentation!

IMG_45296  large eggs at room temperature

6  tablespoons water

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon white pepper

1  tablespoon sesame oil

~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, vigorously whisk the eggs, water, salt and white pepper together.

~ Step 2.  In an 10" nonstick skillet, heat the oil over low heat.  Add the eggs and increase heat to medium.

IMG_4550 IMG_4541                                       ~ Step 3.  In the style of preparing an omelette, using a thin nonstick spatula, begin pushing the egg solids to the center of the skillet as they form, allowing the liquids to flow to the bottom and outside of the skillet.  Continue this process until almost no liquid remains on the top of the egg pancake.  

IMG_4557 IMG_4564~ Step 4. When almost no liquid remains on the top of the eggs, place a plate over the top of the skillet and invert the egg pancake onto the plate.

~ Step 5.  Immediately slide the egg pancake, cooked side up, into the hot pan, to allow the bottom to cook, about 30-60 additional seconds.

IMG_4571 IMG_4565~ Step 6. Slide the fully-cooked pancake from skillet onto a cutting board and allow to cool about 20-30 minutes.  Cut the pancake like you would draw a tic-tac-toe board, then, slice each square into 1/4" thick strips. Transfer to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until serving time.

Part Four:  Some Easy Veggie Prep, then, the Stir-Fry! 

IMG_4579For the stir-fry vegetables:

2-3  tablespoons minced, fresh garlic, more or less, to taste

4-6  tablespoons minced, fresh ginger, more or less, to taste

12  ounces very thinly sliced scallions, white and light green parts only (Note:  This is 12 ounces total throughout the recipe.  Six ounces will be used for the stir-fry and 6 ounces for wrapping and garnishing.)

10  ounces store-bought, matchstick carrots (French-cut julienne of carrots)

12-14 ounces store-bought, shredded cole slaw mix

1  ounce dried wood ear mushrooms, reconstitued as directed below:

6a0120a8551282970b0148c7a5d489970c-320wi IMG_4581Place the dried mushrooms in a 2-cup measuring container and cover with very hot tap water. Set aside for 15-20 minutes.  Pour off/discard the water and place the mushrooms on a paper-towel lined plate to drain thoroughly, about 5-10 minutes.  Lastly, cut them into 1/4"-1/2" strips and set aside until you're ready to make the stir-fry!

For the stir-fry:

3  tablespoons sesame oil

3  tablespoons vegetable oil

all of the marinated pork, prepped as directed above

all of the stir-fry vegetables, prepped as directed above

half of the brown sauce (the other half used as directed below)

all of the shredded egg pancake, prepared as directed above

For serving and garnish:

24 store-bought moo shu wrappers, or, homemade Mandarin pancakes (Note:  My recipe for ~ How to: Make Madarine-Style (Moo Sho) Pancakes ~ can be found in Categories 2, 3, 13, 15  or 22.)

half of the brown sauce, at tableside, for spreading on pancakes, dipping and/or drizzling

6  ounces additional thinly-sliced scallions, at tableside, for garnish

IMG_4587~ Step 1.  Add the sesame and vegetable oils to a 14" chef's pan or stir-fry pan.  Heat the oils over medium-high and add the garlic and the ginger.  Saute, stirring constantly, until both are fragrant and just short of beginning to brown, about 15-20 seconds.

Add the bagged pork and all of the marinade to the pan...

IMG_4599... continue to stir-fry, stirring constantly with a large slotted spoon or spatula, until the pork is opaque in color and almost cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.

Note:  Now as crazy as this is going to sound, at this point, you can turn the heat off, cover the pan, and allow it to sit on the stovetop for an hour or so, until you're actually ready to finish off the stir-fry and eat!

IMG_4609~ Step 2.  Add half, three-quarters or all of slaw mixture (I like lots and add them all) and mushrooms to the sauteeing pork. Stir to thoroughly combine all of the ingredients.

~ Step 3.  Increase heat to high and stir-fry, stirring constantly, until the carrots and slaw mix are slightly softened, but still crunchy, about 2-3 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_4623~ Step 4.  A little at a time, spoon in brown sauce and stir until the ingredients are lightly and evenly coated, with no sauce puddling in the bottom of the pan.

IMG_4639Note:  Taste after each addition. Stop adding sauce when the mixture tastes right to you.  I added 1/2 (3/4 cup) of the sauce.

IMG_4650 IMG_4642~ Step 5. Add the shredded egg pancake. Gently toss, like you would a salad, until the egg is evenly distributed throughout the meat mixture.

Note:  Taste the mixture, it should be flavorful but not overly flavored. Resist the urge to add more sauce, as:  more will be added at the table!

Part Five:  Assembling and Eating

IMG_4660 IMG_4656~ Step 1.  On each moo shu pancake, spread about 1 tablespoon of the additional brown sauce.  

~ Step 2.  On top of the brown sauce, place about 1/2 cup of the moo shu pork filling, followed by a light sprinkling of scallions.

IMG_4673 IMG_4666~ Step 3. Wrap and roll the pancake around the filling like you would a burrito.  

~ Step 4.  Drizzle with a bit more brown sauce and a sprinkling of scallions.  It's time to pick it up and eat, or, slice in half and eat:

IMG_4750Chinatown's Famous Moo Shu (Shredded) Pork:  Recipe yields 12 servings, allowing 1/2-3/4 cup of filling (depending on if you add 1/2-3/4 or all of the slaw mixture) on each of 2 moo shu pancakes per person (24 pancakes total). Recipe also yields 1 1/2 cups of brown sauce.  

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small bowl; small whisk; 1-gallon food storage bag; 2-quart saucepan w/lid; 10" nonstick skillet; thin nonstick spatula; 2-cup measuring container; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid, or a stir-fry pan, or a wok (although when writing this recipe, it was my goal to show you you do not need a fancy pan to make a great stir-fry); large slotted spoon or spatula; spoon or ladle

6a0120a8551282970b017c31935db1970b-800wiCook's Note:  For another one of my family's favorite Asian dishes that uses the same delicious brown sauce we made today, try my recipe for ~ Chinese Chicken Chow Mein a la Melanie ~.  You can find out why it is "a la Melanie" by clicking into Categories 3, 13 or 19!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 


Kimi -- Thank you for your question. You can add one-half, three-quarters or all of the vegetables (as many as you like). I am sorry if that point was unclear, and, thanks to your question, I edited the blog to clarify.

Hi Melanie, I'm just wondering – if you only add 1/2 of the carrot mixture, what do you do with the other half?

Jean! Coming from you, a top-notch fellow foodie, this is high praise. Thanks to your FB post, I did go back into the post and correct the "yield" from: 6 servings to 12 servings. I always make enough of this meal to ensure leftovers, or, enough to feed a small army of guests. THANK-YOU!!! ~ Mel.

One of my favorite comfort foods and this one is yummy!!

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