Sunday 9 November 2014
Mo Shu Pork Lettuce Wraps
This is my version of Mo Shu pork (sometimes spelled "moo shu" or "mu shu"). It is a very popular Americanized Chinese dish which is thought to have originated from Northern China. In China, Mo shu pork is usually eaten with rice but in the Western World it's commonly eaten with Mandarin pancakes (which are essentially flour tortillas). In this version I am using neither and instead wrapping the Mo Shu pork in leaves of Boston lettuce. If you choose to try this it's up to you if you would prefer rice, lettuce or a tortilla/pancake. If you go for the pancake, you could buy ready-made flour tortillas from the store and warm them on each side for a few seconds in a pan, or you could make your own tortillas from scratch. I would just add a little toasted sesame oil (maybe 1/2 a tsp) to the dough when mixing. The rest of the process is the same.
Mo Shu pork is strips of pork marinated in sweet, savoury and salty Chinese flavours stir fried with cabbage, mushrooms and lily buds. The specific mushroom to this dish are wood ear mushrooms (or "black fungus"). Where I live, they are usually imported as a dried product which need to be rehydrated. Feel free to improvise. Mu Shu dishes are commonly prepared with shitake mushrooms as a substitute. The lily buds, are actually the flower buds of lilies that are picked and dried, later to be rehydrated, cooked and eaten. They have a mild tangy flavour and usually appear in Asian hot-n-sour soups. If you can't find them, you may omit them as many versions of this dish do. If you can find them, however, be sure to take full advantage.
These are what dried wood ear mushrooms (black fungus) look like. If you can't find them at specialty Asian markets or a Chinese herb center, you can probably find them online or substitute with your choice of mushroom.
These are dried lily buds which can also be found at Asian markets, Chinese herb stores or online. These are great in Asian soup and you can even add a few to herbal tea for a mild tangy, floral aroma.
To rehydrate the mushrooms and the lily buds, all you need to do is submerge them in simmering (though not boiling) water and let them soak for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally while soaking. This was my first time using either ingredient so I ended up soaking more than I needed for the recipe. Dried mushrooms of about any kind will usually triple or quadruple in size when fully rehydrated. For this recipe all I ended up using was 3
whole wood ears, but aim for 3/4 cup of each rehydrated wood ears and lily buds.
To preserve colour and flavour, always soak the mushrooms and the lily buds separately. Be sure to use heat proof bowls. Covering the bowls is not necessary.
After 20-30 minutes you can drain both ingredients and pat them dry. Though you can technically discard the liquids, they actually will have become flavourful homemade stocks which you could save and use to make tasty soups or sauces later. That's totally up to you. Once thoroughly drained, the lily buds are ready to use and the wood ear mushrooms just need to be thinly sliced in julienne style.
One ingredient in this recipe that you may not be familiar with is Shaoxing wine ("sha-ow-shing"). It is the most famous variety of huangjiu or "yellow wine" from Eastern China. It's a product of fermented rice made since dynastic times. The finished wine is then seasoned and used in an array of Chinese dishes. The flavour is similar to sherry, so if you can't find Shaoxing wine, simply use sherry or even white wine will work in a pinch. If you do not drink alcohol, then simply substitute the Shaoxing wine with additional rice vinegar. No harm done. Shaoxing wine comes in many labels. This is the one I found and used.
Now that we've familiarized ourselves with our ingredients, let's make some Mo Shu pork!
5 lbs pork tenderloin, sliced julienne
3 large eggs
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 cub shredded red cabbage
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced julienne
5 scallions, chopped diagonally
3/4 cup rehydrated wood ear mushrooms, sliced julienne
3/4 cup of rehydrated lily buds
1 head of Boston lettuce
Hoisin sauce, for serving
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
Salt & Pepper
1" ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp soy sauce (dark preferably)
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
First step is to take your pork tenderloin and trim away as much fat and/or silver skin that you can. Your butcher will be able to do this for you. Then slice into julienne strips. Combine all of the marinade ingredients and toss the slices of pork. I find that a sealable plastic bag works best for this. This is not a ton of marinade. It should be just enough to lightly coat the pork. Mo Shu is served with extra hoisin at the end so it's not very saucy to begin with. I should also point out that in the recipe I say to grate the ginger, but I actually sliced it into matchsticks. That was kinda dumb because grating would have been a lot faster and effective so please do as I say, not what I did.
Let the pork marinate for anywhere from four hours to overnight.
Just before or while you are cooking the mo shu, you will also need to scramble your eggs in a separate pan. Use 2 tbsp of neutral oil and 1 tsp of sesame oil when scrambling the eggs. When finished, season the eggs with just a little bit of salt and set aside.
Heat 2 tbsp of neutral oil for frying in a wok over medium-high heat. Then add the marinated pork and sautée for a couple of minutes.
Add the rehydrated wood ear mushrooms and sautée together for 2-3 minutes.
Then add the green cabbage, red cabbage and carrot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the cabbage begins to wilt but still retains its crunch. This will take about 4 minutes.
Add the rehydrated lily buds and stir the Mo Shu together for about another minute. Stir in the scrambled egg until just combined. Then remove from the heat. The pork should be cooked through and the veggies should be cooked but still crunchy.
Clip off the whole leaves from the Boston lettuce. Using a salad spinner will be the best method of cleaning and drying them. Now it's time for assembly. A head of lettuce will have larger leaves on the outside that will get smaller toward the middle. It's important not to overstuff your leaves. 2-3 tbsp of Mo Shu pork should do it, depending on the size.
Start by getting a leaf of lettuce.
Place 2 to 3 tbsp of the warm Mo Shu pork in the middle.
Drizzle with the desired amount of hoisin sauce.
Finally, garnish with fresh chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds before serving.
That's all there is to it! There is some versatility in this recipe, instead of Boston lettuce you can use any kind of lettuce you'd prefer, tortillas, or just serve with rice. You could add hot sauce to your marinade or chilies to your Mo Shu if you would like to add some heat to this recipe. Play around and tweak this recipe to your liking if you desire. These make a delicious dinner for just about any night of the week and because it's finger food it makes for a great interactive idea for hosting a party with. These turned out so good. They're delicious, colourful, and complex in flavour though they were pretty simple to make. The only downside is that there is a good amount of prep involved. These are also quite low in carbohydrates which is good for those watching their weight. Another thing I love about these was that they were quite filling but not the kind of paralyzing, run-you-down type of filling. Just 100% satisfying.
If you give these a try, please let me know how they turn out. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Until next time!