Friday, October 14, 2011

A Chinese Feast

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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 fry and sauce.

Because we live in San Francisco where excellent Chinese food abounds, we rarely cook it at home. But Moo Shu has long been one of Mrs. Monkeyshines’ favorites, so we were happy to give it a go. The primary recipes were culled from the Book Chinese Cookery by Deh-Ta Hsiung. Astoundingly, we have a copy of the same book: the Monkey picked it up on a remainders table while living in London over 20 years ago. It was one of the few possessions he had with him when he moved to California.

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We do occasionally dip into the book for inspiration, though we also have a standing joke about it as nearly every recipe calls for the same 4-5 central ingredients, one being Shao Hsing Rice Wine. To celebrate the Daring Cooks’ challenge, we bought a bottle of Shao Hsing Rice Wine of our very own.

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We planned a Chinese feast using selections from the cookbook as well as a couple of other sources. Our meal included:

The mu shu pork was pretty good – we used frozen bamboo shoots and fresh tree ear mushrooms, so the flavors were more vibrant than you sometimes get in a restaurant. Still, I’ll probably continue to rely on local restaurants as it takes a while to make the pancakes. The bonus on this front, though is that our sister in law turns out to be an excellent pancake roller!

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Moo Shu Pork:mu_shu 024

Serves 4
Preparation time: 25-30 minutes
Cooking time: 6-8 minutes

2/3 cup (1 oz) (30 gm) Dried black fungus ('wood ears')
½ lb (450 gm) pork loin or butt
¾ cup (3½ oz) (100 gm) bamboo shoots, thinly cut
3 cups (6 oz) (170 gm) Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage), thinly cut
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


  1. Soak the fungus in warm water for 10-15 minutes, rinse and drain. Discard any hard stalks, then thinly shred.
  2. Thinly cut the pork, bamboo shoots and Chinese cabbage into matchstick-sized shreds.
  3. Lightly beat the eggs with a pinch of salt.
  4. 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.
  5. Heat the remaining oil. Stir-fry the shredded pork for about 1 minute or until the color changes. Add the fungus, bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage and scallions. Stir-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.
  6. To serve: place about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of hot Moo Shu in the center of a warm 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.)

Pancakes:mu_shu 014

Makes 24-30 pancakes
Preparation time: about 10 minutes plus 30 minutes' standing time
Cooking time: 45-50 minutes

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
Dry flour for dusting


  1. 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.
  2. Lightly dust the surface of a worktop with dry flour. Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes or until smooth, then divide into 3 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a long sausage and cut each sausage into 8-10 pieces. Keep the dough that you are not actively working with covered with a lightly damp dish cloth to keep it from drying out.
  3. Roll each piece into a ball, then, using the palm of your hand, press each piece into a flat pancake. Dust the worktop with more dry flour. Flatten each pancake into a 6 to 8 inch (15 cm to 20 cm) circle with a rolling pin, rolling gently on both sides.
  4. Place an un-greased frying pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot, lower the heat to low and place the pancakes, one at a time, in the pan. Remove when little light-brown spots appear on the underside. Cover with a damp cloth until ready to serve.

Hoisin Sauce:


While most restaurants, or at least those at which I have ordered the dish, serve this with plum sauce, none of the cook books or online recipes that I have seen have referred to that as being traditional. Most that reference serving it with a sauce call for it to be served with hoisin sauce. The home-made hoisin sauce was really great too - we had some fermented black beans (bought that way, not another refrigerator reject), and all the other ingredients. It was thinner than the store-bought sauce, but quite yummy.

4 tablespoons (60 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml)  black bean paste
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey OR molasses
2 teaspoons (10 ml) rice wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon (⅔ ml) garlic powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) sesame seed oil
20 drops (¼ teaspoon)  Sambal or other hot sauce (optional, depending on how hot you want your hoisin sauce)
1/8 teaspoon (⅔ ml) black pepper

Simply mix all of the ingredients together by hand using a sturdy spoon or with your immersion blender.

Steamed Eggplant

this recipe is from Jamie Oliver

Our steamed eggplant was a success and, whilst perhaps not an authentic Chinese dish, it made a nice accompaniment to the moo-shu pork.

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2 medium purple aubergines (we used 2 large Chinese eggplants – the long thin purple kind and made a half recipe)
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 4 tablespoons soy sauce
• 3 tablespoons sweet chilli dipping sauce
• 2 teaspoons sesame oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
• 4 spring onions, sliced
• 2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
• 1 large handful of fresh coriander, roughly sliced
• 1 large handful of fresh basil, roughly sliced
• 1 large handful of fresh mint, roughly sliced
• 1 large handful of yellow celery leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put some water in a pan and bring it to the boil. Slice the aubergines in half lengthways and place them in your steamer with the cut side facing up. Steam them for about 10 minutes – to check whether they're ready, simply squeeze the sides gently and if they're silky soft then they're done. Remove them from the steamer, place them in a colander and leave to cool.
Now make your dressing by mixing all the ingredients together. When the aubergines are warm this is the perfect time to flavour them. Cut them up into rough 2.5cm dice, then dress them and toss. Serve immediately as a salad, tapas dish or as a vegetable next to any simple cooked fish. Just really tasty!

As for the other components of our Chinese feast – we have to admit that they were not as successful as the Moo-shu pork. We tried a steamed beef recipe from Deh-Ta Hsiung that looked just like the picture in the book. It tasted like the pictures from the book too, and the texture was not very nice, a bit like wet cardboard. But drowned in home-made hoisin sauce, was acceptable. 

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We made daikon cakes. These were a Vietnamese recipe, so not exactly traditional, but we love them when we go out for dim sum. The recipe I’d found on the internet, though, was a disaster. Very pasty and floury. There's a good daikon cake to be made and this was not it; we're now on a mission to find a better version.

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Wish we could have served her a better birthday dinner. (Happy birthday Myint!!) But to reiterate, the moo shu was good. Thanks Shelley for inspiring us to push ourselves out there a bit! We did have a great time in the kitchen this weekend and that's what counts!


  1. Wow, I had my hands full with just the Moo Shu and pancakes. I'm so impressed that you made an entire feast!

  2. What a fantastic Chinese feast, and I am glad that I could help to inspire it in part... :) Your Moo Shu looks fantastic. Your ringer or a roller is welcome to help us out here any time!! :) Thanks so much for cooking with us this month :)

  3. Wow, you really went all out on this one. It all looks delicious, even the eggplant, which I hate}:P

  4. What a delicious the eggplants! Your Moo Shu looks yummy...great job!

  5. WoW! What a feast! So cool that you have the same book! Sounds like it was a ton of fun :) Great job on the challenge and all the amazing additions to it.

  6. What I love about you guys is that you always make a feast out of the challenges - which always look incredible..and then you add..and add, and soon I'm dying to come over! Love the eggplant and daikon cakes! Beautifully done!

  7. You feast looks restaurant worthy! Great meal - and would also try making daikon cakes as part of a Chinese dinner. Wonderful job!

  8. I love your feast! My favourite meals are always the ones with a bit of this and a bit of that. The eggplant looks absolutely beautiful, gorgeous colours. Fab Moo Shu too!

  9. I am impressed with those ginormous pancakes. It was an effort to get mine up to 6 inches. And the daikon cakes sound interesting. Next time we're in Honolulu and can get decent dim sum, I'll look for those.