Sunday, April 25, 2010

Amazing Race - China

We are so close to the finish line on the Amazing Race!! This week, the teams raced through China. I am not a big fan of Chinese restaurants - I can't eat at authentic Chinese places because they don't understand the "no meat" request. I have honestly been given soup with chicken feet floating in it like icebergs, to be told that it was vegetarian. To me, "meat" does not mean red-colored flesh. Chicken is just as animal as cow or fish. I don't get the distinction. I do, however, respect cultural differences, so I have come to recognize that more authentic Chinese, like authentic Mexican, just isn't really an option for me. PF Chang's, it is! My stepmom, who is British, has visited China and reported back that they just don't have a cultural understanding of abstaining from meat as a lifestyle or form of activism. Meat is more readily available to those who have more money, therefore it is assumed that foreign travelers are going to eat meat. But as my stepmom says, the British ran out of things to do on their island, so they took up the cause of animal rights. There are lots of vegetarians in Britain (and fabulous ethnic cuisine for those vegetarians, like Indian food)!

But this week, in honor of racing through China, we had one of my favorite homemade Chinese dishes: moo shu vegetables!

I have fond memories of eating moo shu dishes in my pre-vegetarian days: pulling the soft pancake-like wraps from the container and assembling my own roll at the table, dotting the pancake with a sweet plum sauce or spicy mustard and piling high with a mix of veggies, eggs, and, often, chicken, pork or some other meat.

My version of moo shu is vegetable-based, with tofu and egg. It comes from the wonderful Passionate Vegetarian, by Crescent Dragonwagon. The recipe for moo shu veggies relies on another recipe from the book: neo-classic crepes!

These crepes are neo-classic because they rely on chickpea flour and potato starch. The chickpea flour, according to Ms. Dragonwagon, is made from ground chickpeas and used in both Indian and French cuisine. I don't know exactly why it works, but it does! These crepes are easy - they require no special skills, only a nonstick skillet, and they are foolproof.

Here's the two-tiered recipe - it only takes about an hour to prepare the entire thing, including the crepes. The recipe calls for bok choy, but I used an entire bunch of green chard in its place because that's what I had on hand.

P.S. Can I just say that for the first time in many seasons, I am excited about almost all of the teams in the final four?? Seriously, there is only one team that would make me a bit unhappy to see crowned the AR winner. Versus the usual situation, where I can't stand any of them, especially the obnoxious shrew (there's always one - unfortunately, this time around it was my team, the dating lesbians. They got sent home two weekends ago).

Moo Shu Vegetables in Crepes
Adapted from Crescent Dragonwagon's Passionate Vegetarian

For the crepes:
2 tablespoons potato starch
2 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour (I used Bob's Red Mill brand)

Put the potato starch, 1/2 cup of water, vegetable oil, and salt in a food processor; process until smooth (it will remain liquid), pausing to run a spatula along the inside of the bowl. Add the white and chickpea flours and, with the processor running, add the water in a stream through the feed tube. When smooth, pour into a bowl, adding additional water if it seems too thick (it should be the consistency of thin pancake batter).

Heat a nonstick 6-inch pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. When hot, drop one big spoonful of batter (about 2 tablespoons) in the pan; pick it up and swirl it around quickly to distribute along the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the edges begin to curl and the top seems relatively dry. Flip and cook on the second side for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, then slide from the pan onto a cooling rack and let cool for a minute. Stack the finished crepes with sheets of parchment paper in between each crepe to prevent sticking. Make 12 for the moo shu recipe; the remainder of the crepe batter will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. Use it however you would normally use crepes (savory or sweet both work well).

For the filling:

2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup water
2 heaping teaspoons sugar or honey (I used brown sugar)
2 teaspoons fermented black bean-garlic sauce (check the Asian aisle - you will find it there in a jar)
1 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and minced
2 or 3 large green onions, sliced (white and light green parts only)
2 carrots, scrubbed and julienned
1/4 pound to 1/2 pound bean sprouts, washed (amount to your own liking)
1 bunch green chard, washed, center stem removed, and sliced into 1/2-inch wide ribbons
4 ounces firm, water-packed tofu, drained and pressed, sliced into 1/4 inch dice
Dash of soy sauce, or to taste
Hoisin sauce for assembling crepes

Scramble the two eggs the best way you know how - bonus points for using the large wok/deep skillet that you will be using below to make the veggies. Set aside the eggs until the veggies have been prepared.

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with the water and press with fingers to dissolve the cornstarch. Add sugar/honey, black bean-garlic sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok/large deep skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the green onion and carrots, and cook, stirring almost constantly, for about 1 minute. Add the bean sprouts and chard and cook until the chard wilts, about 2 minutes. Make a hole in the center of the veggies and add the tofu, cornstarch liquid mixture, and remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly and coating the mixture with the sauce. Add a dash of soy sauce. Place the veggie mixture in a bowl, stir in the scrambled eggs, and serve immediately. Slather the crepes with hoisin and add a spoonful or two of the veggie mixture. Enjoy!


  1. I love your blog! Thanks for the chickpea crepe recipe....yum! I want to make it, but do you know a substitute for the tater starch? The hubby can't have anything tater-y or tater-ish!

  2. five-eighths - Thank you for reading!! Brian told me you were going to take a look.

    For the potato starch sub, try either cornstarch or arrowroot, in the same amount (2 tablespoons). The benefit of the potato starch is that it has a higher heat point, so it doesn't burn as quickly, but I think the crepes will be okay with one of the substitutes.