a.k.a. Moo Shu Pork
I've cooked a lot of Chinese food over the years. Some more authentic, some less. Some good, some not so much. But I don't remember cooking anything before that was such a dead-on match to a good quality restaurant version.
I looked through a lot of different Moo Shu Pork recipes and most of them have some obvious problems. First off, you can't use tortillas; that's just wrong. A proper moo shoo wrapper is about halfway between a fat-free (i.e. lousy) tortilla and a crepe. Second, a lot of recipes use bean sprouts as if this was Peking Duck. It's not. Less obviously, a lot leave out the two central ingredients: cloud ear mushrooms and lily buds. Those are also the central ingredients of authentic hot and sour soup; both are traditional Mandarin dishes. (There's a Szechuan version of hot and sour soup too. Mixing them up is what screwed up my attempt to make it last time I tried.) One of these days I need to spend some time cooking each of the various regional Chinese cuisines to get the distinctions clear in my head so my thrown-together stir fries aren't such messes.
So, starting with the version in The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook and modifying based on the less screwy recipes I found various places on-line, I came up with this:
1/2 pound lean pork
enough cloud ear mushrooms to make about 4 Tablespoons worth after soaking and shredding
1/4 cup lily buds
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 large scallion
2 leaves napa cabbage or bok choy
2 slices fresh ginger
For Mandarin sauce:
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Shred pork or just in strips if your knifework is as clumsy as mine. It helps if the pork is semi-frozen.
2. Separately soak lily buds and cloud ear mushrooms in warm water for thirty minutes.
3. Combine soy sauce and sugar. Toss with pork. Let marinate for thirty minutes.
4. Mix the Mandarin sauce ingredients.
5. Shred scallion, the leafy parts of the cabbage and, when they're ready, the cloud ear mushrooms. Mince the ginger and beat the eggs.
6. Check through the lilly buds and remove the stems.
7. Heat a Tablespoon of oil in a wok on high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, turn the heat down to medium and add a pinch of salt to the eggs. When the wok as cooled slightly add the eggs swirling to create a very thin omelet. Remove before the egg is quite dry, folding up the omelet as necessary but trying not to tear it too much. Put it on a cutting board to cool.
8. Heat another Tablespoon of oil in the wok on high heat. Add the ginger. After a few seconds when it starts to get fragrant add the pork without draining. Cook until it just loses its pinkness.
9. Add a large pinch of salt, the cloud ear mushrooms and cabbage (and some shredded bamboo shoots and/or carrots if you want). Stir fry briefly. Add lily buds and scallions. Stir fry for 1 minute. Turn the heat down to medium and cover. Cook 2 minutes.
10. Slice the egg into strips about the same size as all your shredded items. You did shred everything into a uniform size, right? Toss the egg strips around a little so they don't stick and put them in a bowl for transport to the wok. Hurry! You only have 2 minutes!
11. Remove the lid from the wok, turn off the heat, add egg (and blanched bean sprouts if you want), and toss to combine.
12. Remove to a bowl.
13. Heat a moo shu wrapper. I've got a difficult-looking recipe for making them from scratch but I'd be shocked if anyone bothers. You had to go to an Asian grocery for the lily buds. Pick up frozen moo shoo wrappers while you're there. These cool off seconds after you heat them up (10 seconds in the microwave) unless you've got a chafing dish or some such for them. So just heat what you're going to use immediately.
14. Smear some of the Mandarin sauce on the wrapper, add some of the filling, wrap it up and enjoy. I found that I needed only a half teaspoon of the sauce and maybe a third cup of the filling. That's less and more than I thought respectively. Learn from my mistakes.
It took an effort of will to leave this a recipe without garlic or any sort of pepper, but I was rewarded with a brightly flavorful dish where the spices complemented the meat and vegetables instead of overwhelming them. Making the Mandarin sauce is definitely worth the small extra effort, too. The brown sugar and sesame oil add important elements to balance the overall flavor. It's a shame almost everyone leaves them out. The texture could be better--my shreds were rather too large. On the other hand, mine turned out far less wet than the standard restaurant version so it actually worked as a wrap without dripping all over the place. Overall, a tasty, easy weeknight dish.