moo shu chicken with homemade mandarin pancakes

9:35:00 PM

I’ve been a little AWOL lately, mostly because I honestly haven’t cooked much blog-worthy goodies lately! Bob and I are 3 weeks into a Whole30. Reader’s digest version for those not in the know: focus on whole foods for 30 days, with a zero-tolerance policy for all grains, all dairy, all legumes, all soy, all added sugar/sweetener of ANY kind, all alcohol, and all carrageenan/MSG/sulfites. 

Personally, I despise fad diets with every element of my being, but I got sucked into this nonsense somehow despite my brain telling me “this is dumb.”  (I think I’ve uttered the phrase “this dumb diet” to Bob about 1,012 times since we started this three weeks ago.) That being said, I’ve been cooking the same amount as always (read: every night) but although we’ve made some decent food, nothing has really been “wow! Can’t wait to write about this!” I’ll write a separate blog post about our experience when it’s done, but in short, it’s going fine. There are positives and negatives about it.  Again, I just haven’t cooked anything that I felt like writing about. Everything’s been fine, but nothing has been worth posting about. 

SO, I’m going a month or two back in time here to the days when we were eating added sugar and flour to share this delicious moo shu chicken recipe.

I think I’ve spoken extensively about my love for super greasy, super salty, Americanized Chinese food. This is my version of comfort food. Whenever Bob is out of town for a business trip or hunting season, this is my bizarre splurge - he’s not quite as big on Chinese takeout as me. Ordering takeout is neither cheap nor healthy. The healthiness of this homemade version can be debated - hoisin and oyster sauces can have a lot of sugar (read labels!) and white flour is pretty much universally accepted to be not so great for you. But, I’m guessing this version uses a lot less oil, and at least I know what’s going into it. 

The North American version of moo shu is quite vastly different from its traditional northern Chinese version, but it’s such a staple in American-Chinese restaurants. Originally, it includes cucumbers and wood ear mushrooms, and omits cabbage, which is predominant in the American version. 

RECIPE NOTES: This is a versatile recipe - feel free to use any kind of protein you like, such as pork or tofu. I like using chicken thighs because they won’t dry out the same way chicken breasts might, but feel free to substitute chicken breasts. If you don’t want to make your own pancakes, no need! You can use flour tortillas (not as thin or delicious, but fine), or use lettuce wraps (we’ve done that before because really, again, these pancakes do not resemble health food in any way) or serve over rice or cauliflower rice. I will admit that the pancakes are a bit time-consuming because you have to cook them only two at a time, but they are really, super easy. Note: Mine look weirder than yours will if you make this recipe, because I ran out of all-purpose flour and had to substitute some of it with a white whole wheat flour which was much grittier, so mine are a little darker. Lastly, check labels on some of this stuff. Some brands of hoisin sauce have a really unnecessarily large amount of sugar. Some have less. 

moo shu chicken with homemade mandarin pancakes
serves four generously

for pancakes (makes 12)
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup boiling water
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

for chicken/marinade
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into thin strips
3 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 tsp grated ginger
4 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
red pepper flakes, to taste

for the moo shu
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
8 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
salt and pepper

for serving
sliced scallions, for serving
hoisin or plum sauce, for serving
sesame seeds, for serving (optional)

For pancakes: Combine the flour and boiling water, then stir well with a wooden spoon until mixed. Dump it onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough, adding a little bit more flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let sit for 30-60 minutes. 

Roll the dough into about a 12-inch log on a lightly floured surface, then cut into 12 roughly equal  pieces with a sharp knife or a bench scraper. Roll the pieces into a small ball, then flatten slightly into about a 2-inch circle. Brush all of the circles with sesame oil on the top. Then “pair up” the pancakes by placing two of them together, oiled sides facing each other, so you’ll have six “sandwiches.” 

Roll out each “sandwich” into roughly a 6-inch circle. They don’t have to be perfect. 

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, place one of the pancake sandwiches into the skillet. Let cook for one minute, then flip and cook on the other side. You don’t want them to brown a lot, just a couple light brown spots. Remove from pan, peel the two pancakes apart, and cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining pancakes.

For the moo shu: Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Add the sliced chicken and let sit for about 15 minutes. 

While chicken is marinating, heat a tablespoon of sesame oil over medium heat in a large skillet, then pour in the beaten eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Let set on one side, then gently flip and cook the other side so you end up with an omelet. Slide onto a cutting board and slice omelet into thin strips, then set aside. 

Wipe out skillet, then heat and add in another tablespoon of sesame oil. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade with tongs and add to the hot oil. Reserve the marinade. 

Stir-fry the chicken until it’s cooked through, about 5 minutes. Pour chicken and any juices into a bowl and set aside. It’s okay if a bit of the marinade stays in the pan (it will help flavor the vegetables.)

Heat the same pan up again and add the cabbage, sliced carrots, mushrooms, and most of the scallions (save some for garnish.) Saute for a few minutes or until cabbage is softened slightly and the vegetables are to your preferred doneness. Then add the reserved marinade and chicken back in to the vegetables and bring to a simmer (important! kill those chicken germs from the marinade!) Stir in the cooked eggs (I mixed in some and then topped with some as a garnish) and cook until everything is heated through. 

Serve topped with green onions and with pancakes, extra hoisin sauce, and sesame seeds, if desired.

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