Meatless Monday: Moo Shu, Hold the Oink

Moo shu veg fixins. (Kim O'Donnel)

I’ve become a regular at Real Food Has Curves, the latest Web venture for cookbook duo Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein. Last week, the guys threw something together that I knew would be perfect for this meatless space, something they’re calling Moo Shu Vegetables, a slimmed down version of the Mandarin pork, egg & pancakes classic, but with no less flavor or zing.

What makes this dish a league beyond the same-ole stir fry are a few key components: the sauce, the aromatics and the crunch. Hoisin sauce, often referred to as Chinese barbecue sauce, gets an extra boost with sesame oil and black pepper, plus an aromatics trio of scallions, garlic and fresh ginger. Nothing fancy here, but the combination is truly tongue popping.

The vegetables in question are all crispers -- stuff that doesn’t wilt easily and needs just a short stint in the hot wok to soften and sweeten but without losing their crunchy personalities. The list of veggies below is a guideline, but I highly recommend the cabbage, which bulks up the dish and makes it feel quite substantial, even without rice.

Total cooking time is 25-30 minutes, most of which is spent chopping, which means this dish is a no-brainer for last-minute supper at the end of a crazy day. It is totally delicious – and oh, by the way, you’re getting those five-a-day servings of vegetables right in one bowl. Score!

P.S. The add-on possibilities are many – diced tofu, toasted cashews, a scoop of rice or quinoa, cellophane noodles. Add what you like, keep me posted on what you create.

Moo Shu Vegetables
Adapted from Mark Scarborough and Bruce Weinstein

4 scallions, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh, peeled ginger, minced
3 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
½ pound green beans (I substituted sugar snap peas), sliced into ¼-inch pieces
1 small bell pepper, diced
½ Napa or Chinese cabbage, shredded

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon Asian chile oil (optional, in my opinion; you could substitute vegetable oil or chili garlic paste)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Get everything together in advance -- this means all chopping, measuring and grouping into bowls. Place aromatics -- scallions, garlic and ginger -- in one bowl; veggies in the second bowl; and all sauce ingredients in a third, smaller bowl.

Heat a wok over high heat. When it begins to smoke, add oil and aromatics. With a wooden spoon, stir fry for a quick 20 seconds. Then add veggies and stir frequently, cooking for about 2 minutes. You want to reduce moisture (you’ll begin to see some shrinkage) but you also want to maintain a certain degree of crunch. Add sauce and stir quickly to thoroughly coat veggies, cooking for an additional 30 seconds or so.

Eat immediately, by itself, with rice or another side companion.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 29, 2009; 11:03 AM ET Meatless Monday
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This sounds great! I'm extending my participation in EDF through today and I know I still have some cabbage, carrots and red peppers in the veggie bin. I like the idea of throwing in some cashews, hope I can find some in the pantry or freezer!

Posted by: pinchmysalt | June 29, 2009 11:32 AM

Hey Pinch, walnuts would be nice here, too. How did EDF go for you?

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | June 29, 2009 11:37 AM

Kim, can I share this recipe for baked tofu? I think it would go great here (credit to Moosewood cookbook)
SIMPLE TOFU- 1 T. dark sesame oil
2 1/2 T. tamari soy sauce
2 1/2 T. water
pinch of 5 spice powder (my addition)

pour liquid mixture over pressed and sliced tofu and bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Posted by: chiquita2 | June 29, 2009 12:55 PM

Erm, pardon my ignorance, but is this dish traditionally eaten with pancakes? What are those made of?

Posted by: groups | June 29, 2009 2:03 PM

The pancakes are basically just flour and water. The dough is made, separated, and rolled out (you could even use a pasta machine to roll them thin enough) and then "baked" in a hot fry pan, much like a tortilla.

Or you can just pick up flour tortillas and use those. Not as delicate in flavor or texture, but still functional.

Posted by: jcburka | June 29, 2009 2:21 PM

Kim, if we don't have a wok (though apparently it needs to be on the wishlist for my super-small kitchen), what's the next best bet for doing the veggies right?

Am SO trying this for my family. Maybe my 2-year-old will finally eat green veggies ;-)

Posted by: alisoncsmith | June 29, 2009 2:23 PM

Hey Alison, a wide skillet is next best thing, something that allows veg to breathe and to be tossed. I truly believe this dish would win over the veggie-reticent. It's *that* good.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | June 29, 2009 2:59 PM

Thanks for the recipe, it's definitely on the to-try list. To be slightly pedantic, it probably should have some moo (mushrooms) for linguistic propriety.

Posted by: TexLex | June 29, 2009 3:18 PM

Go for it, TexLex! I am allergic, so I have to ixnay the ooms-may....

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | June 29, 2009 3:20 PM

Excellent! We'll give it a go tonight. Mrs. Blade's a fan of the local Chinese take-out and this is a nice, healthy spin. My 3 1/2 year old will be the judge of whether or not it can win over the veggie phobic. It seems to be a texture thing for him as he'll devour my spinach ricotta pie.

Our EDF went fine, though we fell off the wagon a day early. Mrs. Blade was at a shopping center next to one of the big Asian supermarkets in the area on Friday afternoon. It seemed pointless to make another trip the following day, so we ended slightly early and are starting up again for a M-F EDF this week.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 29, 2009 5:14 PM

Well, since I guess the recipe comes from our blog--thanks, Kim--I should add this little tidbit: I made the dish again this weekend and used a 1-pound bag of shredded cabbage (you know, the cole slaw mix from the market) in place of shredding the cabbage myself. Call me ridiculously lazy. But it was just as good. And no, no rice this time either. Kim's right: that cabbage has way enough bulk on its own.
Mark Scarbrough

Posted by: realfoodhascurves | June 29, 2009 5:50 PM

Good stuff. I kept the recipe straight, though had to modify the method as I don't have a wok. It completely filled the large skillet. So, I kept the heat on for around 5 minutes and used a spatula to keep ingredients moving from top to bottom until it was cooked through. There may not have been as much crunch as called for in the recipe, but it paired nicely with rice.

We'll see how the kids like it. I diced the leftovers finely and mixed with rice. Hopefully, the flavor of the sauce will be such that Secondo won't notice he's eating veggies.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 30, 2009 10:18 AM

Moo-shu vegetables has been one of our regular meatless Monday dishes. Call it lazy, or busy but I use bagged shredded cabbage and broccoli slaw mix to make it super fast. We wrap it in flour tortillas with a little hoisin. Yum!

Posted by: calimom | July 1, 2009 7:23 PM

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