This was the final frontier in our quest to satisfy our hankering for Chinese take out but those thin little Mandarin pancakes gave me nightmares. Ted loves, loves, loves mu shu pork and mu shu from the Great Wall in Edina was his gold standard. I always thought the pancakes were crepes but I was wrong. They are made from a dough with two ingredients, water and flour, rolled paper-thin and cooked on the stove top in a hot skillet. Needless to say, I decided it sounded like a disaster in the making and who needs mu shu anyways when we have Thai curry to keep us satisfied? But it was always out there, the promise of pork wrapped in a pancake and drizzled with hoisin. I decided to man up, stop whining about rolling out paper-thin pancakes and get cooking. It was so much easier than I anticipated; I can't believe it took me so long to bring a little Edina Chinese food to Bayfield.
After a fair amount of trial and error, I learned two things: you really have to roll the pancakes out as thin as possible (think really thin tortillas) and generous use of sesame oil is going to make the whole process much more enjoyable (pancakes that stick together are no fun). I've made the pancakes a couple of days before I make the pork filling and they hold nicely in the refrigerator (tightly covered). They also freeze well, again tightly covered. The pork mixture is a breeze to pull together and if you have the pancakes in the freezer, I swear it kind of seems like take out— minus the little cello packages of soy sauce and fortune cookies.
The pork part of the equation is basically a very simple stir fry. As with most Chinese food, I find a mis en place approach to be the best. There is a fair amount of chopping and if you do it all at once, it really is just a matter of throwing it all in the pan, cooking and eating. The recipes I saw called for either pork loin or tenderloin. I've tried it both ways and frankly, since the pork is thinly sliced, I can't tell the difference. You can also substitute chicken thighs if you aren't a pork fan or tofu if you aren't a meat fan. One last caveat to make your mu shu experience the very best it can be— buy good hoisin. We like Lee Kum Kee or Koon Chun.
Mu Sho Pork & Mandarin Pancakes
Mandarin Pancakes(From Fine Cooking)
1-3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 cup boiling water
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
In a bowl, mix the flour and the boiling water with a wooden spoon to combine. Turn the shaggy dough onto a lightly floured board, gather it into a heap, and knead it until smooth, about 3 min. Cover with a towel and let it rest for about 1/2 hour.
With your hands, shape the dough into an even cylinder about 12 inches long. With a sharp knife (I find gentle pressure and a serrated knife prevents squashing the dough), cut the roll into 1-inch pieces. If the cutting squashes any of the pieces, stand them on end and shape them back into rounds.
Lightly flour your palms and use them to flatten the pieces into 2-inch rounds. Brush the top of each round generously with sesame oil. Lay one round on top of another, oiled sides together. Flatten the pair together with the heel of your hand. Continue until you have 6 pairs.
With a floured rolling pin, roll each pair into a thin pancake about 7 inches in diameter, flipping the pancake over now and again to roll evenly on both sides. Stack the pancakes as you finish rolling them.
In an ungreased cast-iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium-high heat, cook the pancakes one at a time. Heat one side until it becomes less opaque and starts to bubble slightly, and just a few brown spots appear, about 1 min. Flip it over and cook it until a few light brown spots appear on the other side, about 30 seconds.
While the pancake is still hot, pick it up, look for a seam to grab, and separate it into two very thin pancakes. Stack them on a plate as you go and wrap them in foil to keep them warm and prevent drying. If not using right away, refrigerate until ready to use.
Mu Shu Pork
1 pound pork loin or tenderloin, julienned
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chile garlic sauce
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 head green cabbage, thinly shredded
4 eggs, beaten
8 green onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Chinese black mushrooms, re-hydrated and sliced (you can substitute white or cremini mushrooms)
1 1/2 cup bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
5 tbsp vegetable oil
Place the soy, oyster sauce, chile garlic, toasted sesame oil and cornstarch in a bowl, mix to combine and add the pork. Toss to thoroughly coat the pork and set aside. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium high heat and add the beaten eggs. Once the egg has set up enough to flip over in one piece, carefully flip it and continue to cook a few seconds more. Move to a cutting board, julienne and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet you cooked the eggs in and add the sliced green onions and green cabbage. Saute over medium high heat until the cabbage is wilted but still crunchy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the same skillet and sauté the garlic, mushrooms and pork (with all the sauce that the pork was sitting in) over high heat until the pork is cooked. Add the sliced eggs, cabbage and green onions and sauté for 3 - 5 minutes. Put a smear of hoisin down the middle of the pancake, place the pork mixture on top and roll the pancake up (like a burrito). If you love hoisin as much as I do, drizzle additional hoisin on the outside of the pancake as well.