It’s time to discuss another one of my favorite Chinese dishes, mu-shu pork. In comparison to the legions of chili laced Sichuan and Hunan dishes I’ve made in the past few years, mu-shu pork is rather mundane, but that is part of its charm. For me, mu-shu pork sparks memories of trips to Houston and San Francisco, family vacations that inevitably resulted in visits to local Chinese restaurants. Since Mu-shu pork is relatively nonexistent in the Jackson area when it did pop up on a menu, it was almost certain that an order of mu-shu wrappers, filling, and hoisin sauce would arrive at our table.
Fond memories aside, why should I go to a restaurant to enjoy an order of Chinese burritos? So, as many times before, I began searching for recipes to recreate the experience at home. I did find a few recipes online but while searching the indexes of my cookbooks, I came across a recipe for “Mu-Shu Pork with a Hat” or He Cai Dai Mao. Situated in the “Famous Recipes from the Mandarin” section of The Seventh Daughter, this recipe for mu-shu pork comes from none other than Cecilia Chang. In The Seventh Daughter, Chang explains the origins of her success with The Mandarin restaurant in San Francisco and Beverly Hills. She also shares many of the recipes that made a star. It’s a captivating look at The Mandarin’s history but I was more interested in her recipe for mu-shu pork.
8 ounces pork loin (I used tenderloin, it’s what I had in the freezer)
2 tbs cornstarch
4 tbs shaoxing wine
4 tbs plus 2 tsp peanut oil
1 ounce dried lily buds
½ ounce dried tree ear mushrooms
2 1/2 tbs hoisin sauce
¼ tsp sugar
5 large eggs
mu shu wrappers
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 lb mung bean sprouts
2 tbs soy sauce
1 ½ tsp Asian sesame oil
6 green onions
I had most of the ingredients on hand, but a few, the bean sprouts, lily buds, and wrappers required a visit to the Van Hung Asian grocery. A short trip later, I had everything together and I could start work on my mu-shu pork.
The first step to the recipe is cutting the pork. Following the recipe, I got as close as I could to diagonal, against the grain slices in ¼ by ¼ by 2 inch strips.
After placing the dried lily buds and mushrooms in two separate bowls, I covered them with hot water and left them for 30 minutes to rehydrate. In the meantime, I started making the sauce.
It started with heating one tsp of the peanut oil over high heat and then adding the hoisin sauce, 1 tbs of shaoxing wine, and the ¼ tsp of sugar. The idea is just to combine the ingredients and heat them through.
The results were oddly oily.
Now, I was ready to start on the rest of the recipe beginning with the eggs. After lightly beating the eggs with a pinch of salt, I used another teaspoon of peanut oil to cook them into one large omelet. With the omelet set, I began steaming the mu shu wrappers and preparing the mise-en-place.
The idea is to toss the pork in the oil until it looks “glossy and slippery”.
The pork set aside, I added the last two tbs of peanut oil and another pinch of salt to the wok and started stir-frying the lily buds and bean sprouts.
Once they were coated with the oil, it was time for the next round of ingredients.
1 tbs of shaoxing wine, the soy sauce, the sesame oil, and the tree ear mushrooms were all introduced to the wok and vigorously stir-fried for a minute or so. To finish, the pork was dumped back in the wok, everything was stirred to combine, and then transferred to a platter.
Now it’s time for the fun part, the assembly line.
According to Chang, the idea is to smear a little sauce on a mu-shu wrapper, add a helping of filling, top with torn pieces of the omelet, and finish with more sauce and a few sliced green onions.
I’ll admit that I didn’t finish the recipe according to Chang’s instructions . I forgot to place the omelet on top of the pork filling thus leaving out the hat portion of the recipe. Oh well, it was no great loss as this was still a spectacular example of mu-shu pork. Once the fillings were in place, the sauce smeared on, and the wrapper folded, each bite was a textural delight. Going into this recipe, I wasn’t sure about the lily buds and after the fact, I’m still not sure if I would notice their absence. That being said, it was satisfying preparing this recipe correctly, mostly. In the end, I may not stop ordering mu-shu pork in my favorite Chinese restaurants, but I do know that I can recreate the experience at home. I can only hope that every other recipe from The Seventh Daughter is this much of a success.