JUNE 21, 2018

Weeknight Cooking: Moo Shu Pork

The great dilemma to work out when considering whether to make your own version of Moo Shu Pork is whether to make it all, or just make that simple call to the nearest Chinese Take-Out, pick it up in 12 minutes, bring it home and dig in.  

For the past decade we have chosen the more simple of the two options but last night I decided to follow what looked like a fairly easy recipe out of the Food Everyday: Fresh Flavors Fast cookbook.  I’ve been working with pork loin a lot in recent months – I find that it is a very flexible form of meat, and almost always comes with good results – so figured that this was a recipe worth while.  

In my haste and confidence, I made one initial mistake with the loin that ended up not being a mistake at all: the recipe calls to cut the raw pork loin first into strips, then to eventually fry it in a pan.  When I got my own pork loin home from the grocery store, I visualized a different process and placed the two loins at the bottom of a slow cooker with some seasonings, a mere pinch of water and a small slab of beef stock for flavor and let it sit there for nearly two and a half hours.  It turns out that I was still able to cut the loin down into strips, but that it took obviously a lot less time in the pan; instead I went for the necessary browning for texture and flavor.

As I assembled the rest of the prescribed ingredients, I had at least two main goals in mind, and both were linked to how we have enjoyed the Moo Shu take out in the past: I wanted the pork loin to stay moist and maintain its semi-shredded shape; and I wanted the entirety of the dish to cling together so it is easy to spoon onto the eventual tortilla.  Both of these goals were mostly met.  

Before the vegetables were placed in one pan to cook, four eggs are to be whipped and cooked on medium heat, no stirring, to create a round layer, to then roll up into a log and cut into slender shreds.  As for the rest of the vegetables, diced mushrooms are cooked along with some grated fresh ginger to create the base of the taste, and then one half of a head of cabbage is placed along with that, as are the chopped scallions, then pre-cooked pork and on top (I found this to be a good strategy for maintaining texture) the cut egg roll.  

It was the 1/3 cup soy sauce, and the 1/4 cup rice vinegar, though, that came to hold the dish in the pan together. These liquids not only broke down the chopped cabbage, but kept the cut pork loin steamed and moist.  I simply waited for the cabbage to fully break down and the dish was essentially set. From this point, the main difference I found between my own creation and the take out, is that the take out had always still been a bit gummier, and certainly more sweet.  Although we placed plum sauce on top of the dollops of the Moo Shu pork for the sweetness, if I were to make this again, I would place some in the pan beforehand to add that extra layer of inherent flavor.  

Our own grocery store simply didn’t sell the thin pancakes that go so well with the per usual take out, but the recipe did call for the alternative of small tortillas, which did hold the liquidy Moo Shu quite well.  In the end, what this version lacked in sweetness and gumminess of texture, we gained back in crisper textures and likely higher quality meat.  

If it’s Chinese you need in a hurry, this isn’t the choice to make.  With time, however, this is a fun and well-received recipe that could be tweaked in many directions depending on tastes.