Magnificent Moo Shu

When I was a kid, my family used to go to the Twin Dragon restaurant — a mere mile from my home, it was the best gig in town, shy of driving all the way to Chinatown which we did on the weekends sometimes for dim sum.

Moo shu with support act, Mandarin chicken

Moo shu with support act, Mandarin tangerine chicken

By today’s Chinese restaurant standards of Szechuan vs. Cantonese vs. Fujian vs. Shandong, etc., Twin Dragon was pretty old school — sweet & sour pork, wor wonton soup, pressed duck. But back then, when most Chinese joints were serving chop suey and egg foo young, it was pretty special. They made a mean spicy kung pao chicken with whole blackened chilies, a rocking tangerine chicken with bits of chewy peel, a sublime three-flavor sizzling rice soup, as well as some unique specialties — I recall the chicken with pine nuts standing out, and remember my parents once ordering a big plate of jiggly jellyfish which they tried without success to get the kids to eat.

But the thing I always lobbied for, the dish that sometimes entered my dreams, was the moo shu pork. The  tuxedoed gentleman waiter filled the pancakes right at the table — first a swath of complex, sweet and sticky hoisin sauce, then a large scoop of the eggy, porky, cabbagey filling, then a couple careful folds and delivery via tongs right on my plate.

I’ll still pop by a Chinese joint now and again and order moo shu pork to go for a quick lunch. But better yet, discovering moo shu wrappers in the frozen section of the 99 Ranch Market, decided to make the dish myself for our family at home!

Madame Wu dishing it up!

Madame Wu dishing it up!

I scanned some old cookbooks — including my favorite Chinese volume, a faded, dog-eared paperback called Madame Wu’s Art of Chinese Cooking” from perhaps the most famous old school L.A. Chinese joint, Madame Wu’s Garden in Santa Monica — and browsed some websites for inspiration. Thinly sliced “shabu shabu” pork from the Japanese market made a nice shortcut for the shredded pork, I fried up a couple eggs, splashed some soy sauce and Chinese cooking wine around, and we were in business.

The older kids approached cautiously — Willa examining for mushroom incursions, Flynn poking around for anything out of the ordinary — while Imogen, true to form, dug in with wild abandon. But ultimately, while perhaps not infiltrating dreams as it did to my childhood, the moo shu won a thumbs up to become a new addition to the dinner rotation. I included whole blackened arbol chilies in mine for an added bit of Szechuan-style kick.

"Sean"zhuan fried rice

“Seanchuan” fried rice

Here’s your how-to, in addition to a recipe for the tasty “Sean-chuan” fried rice I served alongside. In the event you have difficulty finding the wrappers, you could use very thin flour tortillas instead. Or, troll around online a bit and I’m sure you’ll find a recipe for making them at home. That’s more work than I’ve got time for when I’m looking for a close approximation to the Chinese take out experience.

Enjoy!

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Moo shu pork
serves 4 – 6

2 eggs
12 moo shu wrappers
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. chopped ginger
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 lb. pork, sliced into thin strips
4 shitake mushrooms, sliced
4 cups chopped cabbage
4 scallions, cut in 1-inch segments
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese shao hsing cooking wine
1 tbsp. sugar

Beat the eggs. Brush a nonstick pan with a little oil, heat over medium, and fry the egg, flipping once (do not scramble).

Remove egg to a cutting board and slice into thin strips. Set aside for later.

Heat 2 tbsp. of oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir fry for one minute. Add pork and continue stir frying for another couple minutes, until pork is begin to brown slightly. Add mushrooms, cabbage and scallions and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, 1/4 cup hoisin, cooking wine and sugar, and cook an additional few minutes until sauce had reduced. Toss in egg. Remove from heat.

Lightly heat moo she wrappers in a pan over medium heat. Place wrapper open, and brush with a teaspoon of hoisin sauce. Add 2 heaping tbsp. of moo shu filling, and wrap up like a burrito. Continue until all moo shu are made, and serve.

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Sean-chuan fried rice
serves 4-6

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 tbsp. chopped ginger
5 scallions, cut into 1-inch segments
1/2 lb. Chinese broccoli or baby broccoli, cut into 1-inch segments
1 carrot, slivered
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp. Chinese shao hsing cooking wine
1 tbsp. XO sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
2 cups cooked long-grain rice
4 large scallops, cut in half, each half then quartered

Heat oil over high heat in a large wok. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Push aromatics to the side and add scallions, broccoli and carrot. Stir fry for 2 minutes, until wilted. Add stock, wine, soy and XO sauces and sugar, and stir fry for another minute. Toss in rice and scallops, and cook for 3 minutes, tossing and stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and serve.

Kinley’s Egg

My 4-year-old daughter Imogen had her 4-year-old pal, Kinley, over to play the other day. They were outside enjoying themselves, when Kinley approached me sheepishly.

Kinley and her egg

Kinley and her egg

“Sean,” she said, “Can we go get eggs from the chicken coop?”

I explained to her that I had, sadly, already gathered the eggs a short while before. But they could certainly go see if any more had been laid. She then went on to explain to me how her 6-year-old brother, Finn, was trying to lay his own egg. I asked their mother, Amber, about this later, and she told me that Finn actually wanted to hatch a chicken from an egg, not lay an egg. I’m not certain if he planned to nest on the egg himself. More

Why I Don’t Like Frog Legs

The main reason I don’t like frog legs can be summed up by one very vulgar photo, for which I apologize in advance.

Here it goes:

IMG_5936

As part of our large recent meat purchase from my meat purveyor friend in Portland, my pal Donnie got a rather large box of frog legs. More

Of Life, Death and the Pursuit of Dinner

People often ask if we’re ever going to eat our pig, Henri. I explain that he’s a family pet, and no, we have no plans to eat him.

“Not even when he dies of natural causes?” my pal Dan asked.

“You mean like when an anvil falls on his head?” I replied.

Henri napping in the rosemary

Henri napping in the rosemary

I must admit, though … I did catch him napping in the rosemary one day, and thought to myself: “Now I could just build a quick mud oven around him, throw in some coals… and he’d never be the wiser.” More

Naomi’s Blown Eggs

“Why don’t you do a post about me?” 10-year-old Naomi Schneider said, gazing over my shoulder as I showed her various posts about her father and mother.

“Why would I do a post about you?” I answered.

Naomi

Naomi

“Because,” she said.

I assured her that she must be somewhere on my blog, and began opening posts about Tuesday sushi nights and Mexico vacations and Sonoma wine barbecues and other Schneider-related topics, and finally found a group shot at the Ferry Building in San Francisco where a teeny, tiny Naomi could be spotted in a corner. More

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