What is Moo Shu Pork?

Diane Goettel

Moo shu pork, a dish that most likely originated in the northern region of China, is a common dish in China as well as in American Chinese restaurants. One of the hallmarks of this dish is the way that it is served. The main dish is made of pork, scrambled eggs, sliced mushrooms, and a number of other ingredients for flavor. This main dish is accompanied by small, thin pancakes that resemble miniature tortillas. These pancakes, made of flour, are used to wrap up the pork. Another accompanying item that is a hallmark of the dish is a small bowl of hoisin sauce, which is used to top the pork once it has been added to the pancakes.

Bamboo shoots may be sliced and added to moo shu pork.
Bamboo shoots may be sliced and added to moo shu pork.

Most of moo shu pork's flavor comes from the rich sesame oil or peanut oil in which the ingredients are typically stir fried. Other ingredients that are used to give the dish a savory and fragrant appeal are ginger, scallions, and garlic. These ingredients are sliced and added to the stir fry so that all of the flavors cook together and mingle. Also, liquids such as soy sauce and rice wine are used to flavor the dish. In some cases, bamboo shoots are sliced into thin pieces and added to the dish as well. Other ingredients that may be incorporated into the dish are day lily buds, carrots, bok choy, onions, celery, and snow peas.

An egg, which is used in making moo shu pork.
An egg, which is used in making moo shu pork.

Most of the variations that occur in moo shu pork have taken place in America. Food historians estimate that moo shu pork became popular in the United States some time in the 1960s. In the years since it became a staple on Chinese menus in America, it has been altered according to American tastes and according to the vegetables and products readily available in America, hence the alteration and innovation in the types of vegetables that are used in the dish.

Although in most cases it is inappropriate in American society to eat with one's hands, eating moo shu pork is an exception. The dish is to be assembled using cutlery, but once the pork and vegetables have been added to the warm pancake and topped with hoisin sauce, it is appropriate to eat the final product with one's hands. This is similar to the way that it is appropriate to eat soft tacos with one's hands.

A spoonful of hoisin sauce, which is served with moo shu pork.
A spoonful of hoisin sauce, which is served with moo shu pork.

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Discussion Comments


I always ask my favorite Chinese place to make my moo shu pork with some heat. If they don't, I usually add a healthy portion of siracha sauce. I like spicy food, so I want my moo shu pork to be a little spicy, too. I think it marries well with the plum sauce.

I'm not really a fan of the pancakes at all. I'd rather have my moo shu with crispy noodles. It's a texture thing, I guess. My version may not even be real moo shu anymore, but I like it.


I like moo shu pork. I had it for the first time probably 30 years ago. The "pancakes" then were obviously homemade and more like crepes than tortillas.

I got some fairly recently though, and the homemade crepes had been replaced with thin flour tortillas. I was disappointed because if I'd wanted Mexican food, I'd have eaten Mexican. As it was, I wanted good Chinese food. The pork itself was very tasty, but the tortillas gave it an odd texture, so I ended up eating the pork by itself. The next time I order it, I'm gong to ask if the pancakes are homemade. If not, I'll ask for them to be left off the dish.

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