I love moo shu. Since I was a kid, it’s always been one of my favorite Chinese take-out dishes – it’s light and tasty, but more importantly, you get to roll things up in pancakes, which, when you’re a kid, is just so much better than chopsticks. And sure, the pancakes never stay together and the whole thing usually ends up falling apart, but that’s also part of what makes it great. Because while Chinese food in general is more fun than most other foods – think dim sum and its rolling, steaming carts of mystery; sharing all sorts of dishes with everyone at the table sometimes on a lazy susan; and, yes, fortune cookies, which aren’t even a little authentic, but who cares, and really, come on, you’re gonna hate on fortune cookies? – moo shu might just be the most fun of all. (And if you want to get all trendy, you could look at it as a kind of Chinese burrito or taco, which means it predates Kogi in Asian/Mexican fusion by probably a couple hundred years.)
It also turns out that moo shu is pretty simple and fun to make at home, and it’s a great way to clean out whatever vegetables you’ve got hanging around your fridge. The only things you necessarily need are cabbage and mushrooms (as well as ginger, garlic, soy, scallions, and hoisin, but those are more in the pantry staple kind of area), and from there, you can add whatever you want. Tofu’s an obvious add-in, and I used carrots here, but zucchini would work, as would bean sprouts, bell peppers, celery, cucumber, or whatever you have that you’re looking to get rid of. As this is kind of a classic stir-fry, you absolutely have to have everything ready to go before you start cooking. It can seem like a lot of prep – all that chopping, measuring, and portioning into little bowls – but everything cooks in around 5 minutes over high heat, so there’s just no time to do any cutting or measuring while everything is cooking. So make sure you have everything ready before you turn on the stove.
As for the pancakes, you can sub in tortillas if you want (or even serve the moo shu over rice), but the traditional mandarin pancakes are easy to make and worth trying. So I say go for it, but don’t worry if you don’t feel like it. Everything about moo shu should be simple, relaxing, and, yes, fun.
hoisin sauce (and sriracha, if you're so inclined), for serving
Make sure you have everything ready to go - prepped, measured, chopped, and in small bowls by the stove - before you do anything. I can't stress this enough. Once you start cooking, everything happens really quickly, so there's no time to chop something else while things are on the stove. Just saying. Put your ginger, garlic, and minced scallion in one small bowl, onion in another, carrots in yet another, and cabbage and mushrooms in a slightly larger bowl. Whisk together the soy sauce, sake, hoisin, and salt. Stir the cornstarch and water together. Get it all in an accessible place by the stove. Okay. Here we go.
Put a nonstick skillet (or wok) on the stove, turn the heat up to high, and add the oil to the pan. When the oil's hot, add the ginger, minced scallion, and garlic to the pan, and stir-fry until fragrant, around 15 seconds. Add the onion, stir-fry for 30 seconds or so, then add the carrots, and cook, tossing and stirring, for another 30 seconds. Add the cabbage and mushrooms, then dump the soy sauce mixture over everything, and stir-fry until the cabbage begins to wilt and the mushrooms start to brown, around 1 minute. Give the corn starch and water a quick stir to reincorporate, then add that to the pan, and quickly stir it in. Cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, still stirring, until the cabbage and mushrooms and both cooked through and greatly reduced in bulk. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cut scallion.
To serve, take a mandarin pancake (or tortilla), and smear a line of hoisin (and sriracha, if you want some heat) across the bottom. Spoon in some moo shu, and roll the thing up like a tiny burrito - fold the sides in over the filling, then roll it all up from the bottom. Or you can eat it like a taco (which is what I usually end up doing after my rolls fall apart). Or you can serve it over rice, but that kind of defeats the whole purpose of the moo shu experience.