For a good chunk of my life, I’ve harbored a secret. It’s something my wife is pretty disgusted by, something that few friends here in Singapore sympathize with or even understand. But I know there are others out there like me, others that share my hidden shame. Some are even more passionate about it than I am. Those people indulge this vice regularly while for me, it was always an occasional tryst… something that always satisfied me yet also made me feel just a tad ashamed of myself.

But enough is enough. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my life is that there’s absolutely no point pretending to be something that you’re not. And so, I’ve decided to simply come clean and say to the world a few simple but pretty shocking words.

I actually like American-Chinese food.

Well, not all of it mind you. I’ll never understand or appreciate what Americans call “Singapore Noodles” and I find beef and broccoli pretty bland and boring. But I do enjoy my fair share of a cuisine that my darling food-writer wife, who grew up in Singapore, refuses to acknowledge as real Chinese food. I like and have eaten over the years a substantial amount of General Tso’s chicken, cold sesame noodles, eggplant in hot garlic sauce, lemon chicken, sesame chicken, kung pao chicken, and shrimp lo mein. (Note that I’m saying “like”, not “love”. While I do enjoy and even occasionally crave these MSG-rich dishes, I would never go so far as to actually say that I love them.)

Another dish that I enjoy is moo shoo pork, served with pancakes of course. The first time I told this to S, she actually burst out laughing. Not only had she never eaten the dish, she didn’t think that anyone with any taste would ever voluntarily seek it out. I think for quite a while she was pretty freaked out that she had actually married someone who would. Fortunately (for me), she got over it. That didn’t stop her, however, from making fun of my moo shoo madness for the longest time.

A couple years ago, S picked up a book by American-Chinese food-writer Grace Young called The Breath of a Wok. As I’ve written before, we have a ludicrous number of cookbooks. And while we try our best to look through and use as many of our books as possible, there are a few that S might look at but that I’ll forget about and vice-versa. Young’s The Breath of a Wok is one such work. While S has poured over several of the recipes in it, I only opened it for the first time last week. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I flipped the book open and found a recipe for “Virginia Yee’s Moo Shoo Pork with Mandarin Pancakes”. If you can do that, now try and imagine S’s groans of sheer fright and horror when I announced that I was whipping up a batch for dinner!

To her credit, she was a complete trooper. After several hours of pleading, she agreed to help out, taking on the difficult task of making the dough for the pancakes. And at the end of our meal, I was pleased as punch that she actually admitted that she enjoyed her very first moo shoo pork platter. Of course, I should say that Young’s recipe yields a substantially healthier and more flavourful version than anything I’ve ever had before.

Moo Shoo Pork
Adapted from Grace Young’s The Breath of a Wok
Serves 4

1/3 cup cloud ears
5 dried shiitake mushrooms
45g dried cellophane noodles
230g pork butt/shoulder
3.5 teaspoons soy sauce
1.5 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2.5 teaspoons Shao Hsing rice wine
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 slices ginger
2 scallions, diced
1.5 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup cup canned shredded bamboo shoots
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Soak the cloud ears in cold water for 30 minutes or until soft. Drain, trim away the hard parts and cut the rest into shreds. Set aside. In a separate bowl, soak the shiitake mushrooms in 1/2 cup of cold water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid. Squeeze the mushrooms dry, discard the stems and cut the caps into fine shreds. Set aside. In another bowl, submerge the cellophane noodles in cold water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain and cut into 3 inch pieces.

Cut the pork into small “matchstick” pieces. Put the pork into a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the Shao Hsing, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1/2 tablespoon of the Hoisin, 1/4 teaspoon of the sugar, and a pinch of pepper. Stir to combine. In a small bowl, combine the salt, and the remaining 2.5 teaspoons of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Shao Hsing, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon Hoisin, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and the reserved mushroom liquid. Set aside.

Heat a well-seasoned flat-bottomed wok or large fry pan over high heat. Swirl in the vegetable oil, add the ginger and cook it for 10 seconds. Then remove the ginger and throw it away. Add the scallions and shiitake mushrooms and stir-fry for 1 minute. Push the scallion mixture to the side and add the pork, spreading it evenly. Cook for 20 seconds undisturbed. Then stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.

Add the cloud ears, cabbage and bamboo shoots. Stir-fry 1-2 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Add the cellophane noodles and stir-fry just to combine. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the pork until the sauce has thickened and the noodles are cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the sesame oil.

These are to be eaten with Mandarin pancakes. The Breath of a Wok has a fantastic recipe for making exceptional pancakes. For the recipe, please buy the book.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his three kids!


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29 August 2007


Hey now, let’s remember that Kung Pao Chicken (Gong Bao Ji Ding) is an authentic Sichuan dish. It’s the veggie-filled American version that’s garnered Kung Pao Chicken such a bad rap. Find yourself a place that serves the real thing, or make it yourself, and you’re in peppercorn heaven.

What a coincidence – my grandmother is making this for dinner tonight! I don’t think it’s purely an American-Chinese recipe either… my grandmother’s Chinese cooking is pretty traditional and her recipe looks similar to yours, minus the bamboo shoots and with some scrambled eggs added. We normally buy the pancakes from the nearest Chinese restaurant though… rolling them out by hand is a lot of trouble!

Moo shoo pork is not an American Chinese recipe. It is actually a very popular dish in Beijin. The Chinese food we see in Singapore are primarily Southern Chinese cuisine. Even those self proclaimed Sichuanese restaurants serve food which are modified to suit local taste buds.
Given there are so many variation and styles in Chinese cuisine which originate from different parts of China, it’s not easy to tell what is real Chinese food.

Actually I have been harbouring a desire to open a kitchsy campy American Chinese restaurant for a long time now. 🙂

Just refining the food a little (some of these American Chinese restaurants are pretty ‘crude’ in their interpretations) though.

Name has to be Panda something or other just cuz Pandas are awesome. 😛

We must have fortune cookies and take out boxes.

It’ll be a fun little restaurants and have great appeal to Americans and those who went to school in the US I feel! 😛

I’m totally not shy about declaring my *like* for American Chinese food. Sure, I grumbled about it all through college about ‘fake’ chinese food but now that I’m back in Singapore I find myself craving a good healthy (lol) serving of General Tsao’s chicken.

When I went back to the states to visit a couple of friends, they were horrified that I wanted to have that chicken for my last meal in the states! Can’t help it! It’s good! If someone opened an American Chinese restaurant in Singapore. I’d be there!

Thanks for the post that reminds me about it and is making me crave some chicken!

LOL. I can totally understand what S was thinking about you and American-Chinese food. The first Chinese restaurant that I went to in the US…at the first look of the menu, I was like, “what the f are all these dishes?” Moo shoo what? Beef and broccoli? Huh? Chow Mein? Is that a city in China?!!!!! 😉

I had American kung pao chicken a few years back on a business trip out of St. Louis, not too bad really, except for the humongous portions that could easily feed a family of four…

haha, Jason’s right there with you. He even tried to convince me to try the Chinese food in Paris during our last visit! His favorite is General Tsao’s chicken.

HI Chubby Hubby, I Moo Shoo too! 🙂 As much as I fear the typical trap of American Chinese food like chow mein and family style toufu, the fare served in the little town of Saint Helena, CA brings me back home. I crave toufu and sweet & sour soup, and Sichuan chicken! Though Panda Express is a little overdone for me, I’m like you! I’m proud to say that American-Chinese food is seriously not bad! Still, my heart lies in what I can find in Singapore 🙂 I’m going to Moo Shoo today!

I love this cookbook! It was one of those I sat down and read cover to cover – such beautiful insights about Chinese cooking and culture. My wok has suffered a little neglect lately – I look forward to busting it out for this delicious moo shoo recipe.

Wow-this recipe is the closest I’ve had to the resturaunt style mooshoo. I added garlic, a little more ginger,scram.egg,then (I cant have wheat/gluten)wrapped them in a brown rice wrap!Oh,I also used a bag of slaw mix instead of shredding the cabbage. This is one of my favorites when I do order out,and I make it often too-it gets tiring to shred yourself! Good job-like this recipe!!Lawree

Hi Aun,
Would you happen to have a good recipe for kung pao chicken? Determined to learn how to cook this all of a sudden..

Siew, I was actually just recently looking at a recipe for this. I’ll try and make it in the next week or two and post. As they say, WATCH THIS SPACE.

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