First let me start by asking, do you moo shu? I most certainly hope you will after reading this post!
So this is now my 4th post in two weeks. It still feels odd, and I’m completely exhausted. No idea how some cook/bake, photograph, write and post every.single.suburban.day. I have a new found respect for them; I kiss the ground they walk on.
So here’s what happened. Remember I told you all how sick I was in my last post? Well, I’m better now, but still a bit woozy. At least I have my appetite back, though. I want to thank everyone for the “feel better” wishes. SO, during the past month a lot has been going on, and even though I knew that the Daring Cooks challenge was moo shu, one of my favorite Chinese take-out treats, I hadn’t checked the thread. I was going to skip it once I got sick, but then I saw who was hosting.
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 frying and sauce.
There was no way I could miss their challenge. I’ve known them, especially Shelley, for some time and really, really like them! They’re both enthusiastic, talented, sweet gals, and are a lot alike in so many ways. Now I know why; they’re sisters, but not just sisters, twins! I had no idea..well, I think I had no idea, since my brain has been in a fog on and off the past year. Regardless, I found that info pretty cool. I always got kind of a connected vibe from them.
OK, so once I found that out they were hosting, about 30 hours ago, I knew I was going to pull this out no matter what, and I did. I made the pancakes immediately after I found out, the moo shu chicken yesterday afternoon, and the gorgeous plum sauce you see, last night, right before our moo shu dinner. Then, of course, photos, photo editing, and writing the post, which I’m doing this very moment, the 14th, at 9:35 am.
Spread the sesame oil all over each flattened dough ball before you press them together – don’t just drizzle it on like you see in the photo. I was sick and rushing photos, so I didn’t bother.
So I made it, and it was amazing! BUT, I didn’t completely make the moo shu chicken. You see, I’m still kind of weak and woozy, so I called my Dad yesterday afternoon to pick up the ingredients for the plum sauce and moo shu chicken for me. When he came by with the stuff, I was feeling lethargic and queasy again. We decided I would chop, dice and measure everything at the table, and he would stand at the stove and cook it as I called out directions. I was the sick sous chef and coxswain of my kitchen.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to say much because he’s a really good cook and knows what to do, especially when it comes to stir-fries. Plus, the Wok I own he bought on one of our weekly jaunts to Chinatown when I was a kid, so it was sort of kismet. This is also why I don’t have stir-frying photos. I wasn’t about to ask him to carry the Wok over, mid-cooking, to my little Lowel Ego Light nook. Look at the beautiful moo shu chicken he turned out. I swear, mine never would have looked that good. Thank you, Daddy!
Before I continue with the recipe, a quick little yarn about moo shu pancakes. I learned to make them when I was in college. My roommate received a Chinese cookbook over the holidays our sophomore year, and it was the first thing I tried. I was obsessed. I think I made them twice a week for a month or so. I loved that it was a quick easy dough that you cut into pieces, then sandwich those pieces together with sesame oil and roll the two together into one big pancake. Into a hot, dry pan, and within minutes, you could easily pull them apart. Voila, two pancakes in one! Loved the magic of it.
I was super annoying.
“You’re making hamburgers? Forget the buns..we’ll wrap them in moo shu pancakes!”
“Lasagna tonight? I’ll bet nobody has ever wrapped lasagna in moo shu pancakes!”
And so on and so forth. I know everyone was happy when it finally wore off. BUT, here we are again, and I thought history may repeat itself ..until this:
My first two (well, really 4) moo shu pancakes ended up like this. Then the planets aligned, and I was back on the moo shu pancake train.
All was right in the world again.
I halved the recipe; so in the end we had 8 moo shu aka Mandarin pancakes. That was more than enough, so no whining today.
Finally, can we talk about the amazing plum sauce you see above? Oh, how I wish I had natural light for photos that really show off how gorgeous it is. AND, it’s also absolutely delicious! I got the idea from Suz of Serenely Full, but her recipe was metric, and I avoid metrics like the plague. I searched online and found loads of recipes for it, and after reading through them, I ended up compiling a bunch of those recipes into one, then adding my own tweaks upon cooking and tasting. You should do the same if you end up making this. In fact, I strongly recommend you do.
Although I love my take on it, you may think it needs more savory than sweet, or vice versa, or more spice, etc. Regardless, you will get that gorgeous shade of magenta.
A friend just asked me if I used scissors on the scallions, like you do with ribbon, to make the curls in my scallion brushes. Ummmm, no. Here’s how you make scallion brushes to use to brush the gorgeous plum sauce on the pancakes.
I loved this moo shu challenge so much, and I’m so glad I managed to knock it out in such a short time. Thanks Shelley and Ruth! To get the challenge recipes for moo shu pork, hoisin sauce, et al, click HERE.
Now I just have to figure out how to make the Perfect Cashew Chicken.
Moo Shu Chicken with Mandarin Pancakes and Plum Sauce
Moo Shu and Pancakes adapted from The Chinese Kitchen
- ⅔ cup (1 oz) (30 gm) dried mix of wild mushrooms
- ½ lb (450 gm) boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, thinly cut
- ¾ cup (3½ oz) (100 gm) bamboo shoots, thinly cut
- 3 cups (6 oz) (170 gm) Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage), thinly cut
- 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
- 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 (recipe below)
- Plum sauce (recipe below)
- 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
- sesame oil
- Dry flour for dusting
- 1¾ to 2 lbs pounds plums
- 1 to 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 to 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot or red onion
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon red chili paste, or more if you like it spicy hot
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 whole star anise (optional)
- Soak the dried wild mushrooms in warm water for 10-15 minutes, rinse and drain. Discard any hard stalks, then thinly shred.
- Thinly cut the chicken breasts or thighs, bamboo shoots and Chinese cabbage into matchstick-sized shreds.
- Lightly beat the eggs with a pinch of salt.
- 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.
- Heat the remaining oil. Stir and fry the shredded/thinly sliced chicken for about 1 minute or until the color changes. Add the wild mushrooms, bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage, carrots and scallions. Stir and 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.
- To eat: Using a scallion brush (or any brush or spoon) brush each of your warm pancakes with the plum sauce (directions below) and place about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of hot Moo Shu in the center of the brushed 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.)
- 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.
- Lightly dust the surface of a worktop with dry flour. Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes or until smooth.
- Divide the dough into an even number of small pieces, rolling each into a ball. Working with two balls of dough at a time, dip the bottom of one ball lightly into sesame oil and press it onto the top of the second ball. Press the double layer flat, then, on a lightly floured surface, roll the doubled pancake layers into 6 to 8 inch circles. In a dry pan, cook on each side until dry and lightly blistered (but without browning). Separate pancakes after cooking.
- Since this recipe makes double the amount needed for Moo Shu chicken, wrap remaining cooked panackes in freezer wrap, then place in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months,
- Split the plums, pit them, then cut each half vertically down the center. Cut each side of each split half into two or three pieces, or just hold split half together and cut into two or three pieces (the most logical choice lol)
- Place the chopped plums, plus all the rest of the ingredients, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring. then reduce the heat and simmer until the plums are soft, stirring occasionally, about 15 -20 minutes. Taste as it cooks, add to it, play with it, until the taste is to your liking. Remove star anise, if using.
- Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. If the sauce is too thin for your liking, cook over low heat with a little cornstarch and water (a slurry) until thickened. Too thick, slowly add water until it reaches your desired consistency. Makes about 4 cups.
- 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 plum sauce is spread onto the pancake, on top of which a spoonful of the moo shu 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, sort of like a burrito. Once rolled, the prepared pancake is eaten immediately.
** If you don't want to make the plum sauce, pick up a jar of hoisin sauce. Hoisin sauce is commonly served with moo shu and pancakes and you can find it most supermarkets or Asian markets.
Until next time, which could be another 3 or 4 days, instead of the usual two weeks, at the rate I’m going!
Update: I just found out, via foodieblogroll, about Team Continuum’s “Team CAN Challenge” event being held October 22, 2011 in NYC. You can register and/or donate, plus find out more about the charity, HERE. Team Continuum is a non-profit organization, dedicated to helping cancer patients and their families minimize the disruptions and difficulties of life so that they can focus on crucial and much needed medical care. This is a cause that’s near and dear to my heart, having experienced it within my immediate family. This sponsorship is brought to you by Team Continuum, whom I have partnered with for this promotion.