I don’t eat Moo Shu Pork – or vegetables, or chicken – very often anymore. Which is a shame, because Moo Shu is a tremendously fun thing to eat. We just so rarely eat out anymore at the kind of Chinese restaurant that serves it. (Chinese restaurants of any stripe are not the most common in Albuquerque.) And what do you do when you want to make it at home? I don’t know about your grocery store, but mine does not sell Moo Shu pancakes. Flour tortillas will do as a substitute, but they’re not really right. Even the thinnest ones are too thick and fluffy, with the wrong kind of chew.
So when I saw the three-ingredient recipe for Moo Shu Pancakes in Lucky Peach’s 101 Easy Asian Recipes, I decided I had to try it. Did I say three ingredients? Arguably it’s only two, because since when do we count water as an ingredient?
It turns out that these are super-fun to make. They introduce a really cool technique I hadn’t seen before: To get each pancake super-thin, you roll two balls of dough out on top of each other, separated only by a layer of sesame oil. Once they are griddle-baked, they peel apart easily, giving you two pancakes, each one half as thick as you could roll out alone. And, as a bonus, tasting a little bit of sesame oil.
The dough itself is simply made by kneading together flour and boiling water. I’ve used this technique before to make Chinese dumpling wrappers, and was curious about it, so I poked around online. That quick research didn’t tell me a lot, just that this kind of boiling-water dough tends to be used for dumplings that need tougher wrappers for comparatively rough cooking methods. So I turned to the big guns: Harold McGee’s food-science tome On Food and Cooking. I found a bit more info there: Boiling water causes starch to absorb water much more quickly and gel, which makes for a robust, easily worked, chewy dough.
I am not providing a recipe for the Moo Shu filling, because it’s so simple. (Though I was reminded that I did post a tasty recipe for Moo Shu Pork years ago.) The excitement here comes from the pancakes and the dark, sweet-salty flavor of hoisin sauce. (Kikkoman and Lee Kum Kee both make very good versions; you can probably find one or the other in the Asian section of your grocery store.) Shred some cabbage, carrots, onions, and other veggies that you have on hand or that seem interesting, add a protein of your choice if you like (we just went veg here), and stir-fry with plenty of ginger and a little soy sauce and sesame oil.
My only issue with these was that they seemed like they’d be better with just a little hit of salt. Next time I’ll add a quarter teaspoon to the recipe, and I made that an option below. The process of making the pancakes is really fun and very easy – the hot-water dough rolls like a dream, and peeling the pancakes apart is oddly delightful. (Be careful – hot steam billows out!) And, of course, rolling them around some tasty filling at the table and devouring them is best of all.
The recipe serves three to four. If you’re serving more than that, invite them into the kitchen to help! It’s really fun to make these together. Even by yourself, once you get the hang of it you can roll one set of dough balls together while another pair cooks, speeding up the whole process.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil, or more as needed
This recipe serves three to four people, depending on how hungry they are and how full they stuff their pancakes.