Moo shu pork

Last updated
Moo shu pork
Mu xu rou.jpg
Traditional Chinese or
Simplified Chinese or
Hanyu Pinyin mù xū ròu or mù xī ròu

Moo shu pork (also spelled mù xū ròu, moo shi pork, mu shu or mu xu pork) is a dish of northern Chinese origin, possibly originating from Shandong. It is believed to have first appeared on the menus of Chinese restaurants in the United States in the late 1960s, [1] and has since then become a staple of American Chinese cuisine. [2]




In its traditional Chinese version, moo shu pork (木须肉 / mùxūròu) consists of sliced pork tenderloin, cucumber, and scrambled eggs, stir fried in lard [3] [4] together with bite-sized cuttings of wood ear mushrooms (black fungus) and enokitake mushrooms. The dish is seasoned with minced ginger and garlic, scallions, soy sauce, and rice cooking wine (usually huangjiu ).

American Chinese

In the United States, the dish seems to have appeared in Chinese restaurants in New York City and Washington, D.C. in approximately 1966, receiving mention in a New York Times guide to Washington restaurants published that year. [5] One of the first restaurants in Manhattan to serve the dish was Pearl's, one of the best known New York City Chinese restaurants to serve non-Cantonese food in the 1960s. [6] A 1967 article in The New York Times states that another of the first restaurateurs to serve the dish in Manhattan was Emily Kwoh, the owner of the Mandarin House, Mandarin East, and Great Shanghai restaurants. [7] The dish was also early on the menu at Joyce Chen's, a pioneering Mandarin-style restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

At the time of its introduction, the dish was prepared in a traditional manner, but, as wood ears and day lily buds were scarce, a modified recipe was developed. In this modified recipe, which gradually came to predominate in North America, green cabbage is usually the predominant ingredient, along with scrambled eggs, carrots, scallions, and bean sprouts, along with lesser amounts of day lily buds and wood ear mushrooms. The new recipe is more like the filling of the Chinese spring pancake. Shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, snow pea pods, bell peppers, onions, and celery are sometimes also used, and dry sherry is often substituted for the huangjiu. The vegetables (except the day lily buds and bean sprouts) are generally sliced into long, thin strips before cooking.


While the above are the typical ingredients, there is some variation in the recipe from chef to chef or restaurant to restaurant. In both the Chinese and Americanized versions, monosodium glutamate, salt, sugar, corn starch, and ground white pepper are also often added. In less authentic North American restaurants, the wood ears and day lily buds ingredients less familiar to most American customers are often omitted entirely.

Although most commonly made with pork, the same basic dish can be prepared by substituting another meat or seafood; generally only a single meat is used. If made with chicken instead of pork, the dish is called moo shu chicken, and the name is similarly altered if prepared with beef, shrimp, duck, or tofu. If prepared without any meat, it is called moo shu vegetables. Many Chinese families use chicken but shrimp and beef are less common in home cooking.

Lu (卤), meaning gravy, is also made up by the standard ingredients of moo shu pork, including day lily, wood ear, soy sauce, and starch. Lu or dalu (打卤), with gravy, similar to au jus in Western cuisine. Lu, either vegetarian or with eggs or meat, is often used as a soup base for noodles (Dalu noodles). It can be like either a sauce or a soup. Lu is also used in a breakfast setting over soft tofu, often at Chinese halal fast-food places.


Chinese style

Moo shu pork is usually served with rice in China. Moo shu Lu, the gravy variation, is more often served with noodles and soft tofu.

American Chinese style

In America, moo shu pork is served with a small dish of hoisin sauce and several warm, steamed, thin, white tortilla-like wrappers made of flour, called "moo shu pancakes" (Chinese: , pinyin: mù xū bǐng), báo bǐng ( , literally "thin pancakes") or just called "Mandarin pancakes"; these are similar to those served with Peking duck. In the late 20th century, some North American Chinese restaurants began serving Mexican-style flour tortillas, which are thicker and more brittle, in place of the traditional moo shu wrappers.[ citation needed ]

The moo shu pork is then wrapped in the moo shu pancakes, which are eaten by hand in the manner of a taco. The diner may wrap his or her own pancakes; in some Chinese restaurants, waiters or waitresses will do so. First, a small amount of hoisin sauce is spread onto the pancake, then some moo shu pork is placed in the center of the pancake. The bottom of the pancake is folded up (to prevent the contents from falling out), then the sides of the pancake are folded or wrapped, in the manner of a soft taco. [8] Unlike the practice in wrapping a burrito, the top is usually not folded over, as the pancake is generally eaten immediately and thus there is no danger of the food falling out of the top, which is the part that is eaten first. Because the dish often contains a great deal of liquid, care must be taken that the pancake does not become soaked through and break during rolling or eating.


There are two primary histories for how the name of this dish is to be written and explained.

One story gives the name as (pinyin: mù xī ròu). The last character 肉 (ròu) means "meat" and refers to the pork in the dish. The first part 木犀 (mù xī) is the name for the sweet osmanthus, a small ornamental tree that produces bunches of small and fragrant blossoms that may be yellow or white.

The blossoms of the sweet osmanthus tree resemble scrambled eggs. Osmanthus heterophyllus-hangzhou.JPG
The blossoms of the sweet osmanthus tree resemble scrambled eggs.

Scrambled eggs have an appearance that remind people of the mixed yellow and white flowers, so 木犀 (mù xī) is a poetic way of referring to the scrambled eggs used in preparing this dish. Additionally, at Chinese Confucian death anniversary celebrations, the Chinese word for "egg" (; pinyin: dàn) is avoided when referring to dishes containing eggs, as many Chinese curses contain this word. Thus, the word dàn was typically substituted using the euphemism "sweet osmanthus." [9] By this reasoning, in this version of the dish's name, the first character, (mù) is short for 木耳 (mù'ěr, meaning "wood ear fungus") and (xī, meaning "sweet osmanthus tree") is short for 桂花 (guíhuā, meaning "sweet osmanthus flower").

The second way of writing the name of this dish that is commonly seen in Chinese restaurants in the United States is (pinyin: mù xū ròu). The second character 须 (xū) means "whiskers," and is often given an additional determinative component in writing (to distinguish the meaning of "whiskers" from the other meanings of ) so that it comes to be written as . It is possible that 木須肉 (literally "wood whiskers pork") might have been used on the menus of the first American Chinese restaurants to serve the dish in place of the correct compound 木樨肉 ("sweet osmanthus pork") due to haste or simply because of the limitations of Chinese typewriters. It may also merely have been the result of writing the wrong character with a similar pronunciation.

Two additional explanations of the name have unclear origins and may be examples of folk etymology: There is a neighborhood with a similar name in Beijing called Muxidi ( ), which is home to the Muxidi station (木樨地站). The dish is also occasionally also called 苜蓿 (mùsù ròu) meaning "alfalfa meat".

See also

Related Research Articles

American Chinese cuisine Chinese cuisine developed by Chinese Americans

American Chinese cuisine is a style of Chinese cuisine developed by Chinese Americans. The dishes served in many North American Chinese restaurants are adapted to American tastes and often differ significantly from those found in China.

Sweet and sour

Sweet and sour is a generic term that originated from Chinese cuisine and encompasses many styles of sauce, cuisine and cooking methods. The etymology of the term "Sweet and Sour" comes from the Chinese word "甜酸"(甜 = sweet, 酸 = sour), formally used in Chinese dishes as "糖醋“. It is commonly used in China since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), East Asia, Southeast Asia, and has been used in England since the Middle Ages. Sweet and sour remains popular in Europe and the Americas.

Egg foo young

Egg foo young is an omelette dish found in Chinese Indonesian, British Chinese, and Chinese American cuisine. The name comes from the Cantonese language. Egg foo young is derived from fu yung egg slices, a mainland Chinese recipe from Guangdong.

Pork belly Boneless and fatty cut of meat from the belly of a pig

Pork belly is a boneless and fatty cut of meat from the belly of a pig. Pork belly is particularly popular in Hispanic, Chinese, Danish, Norwegian, Korean, Thai and Filipino cuisine.

<i>Osmanthus fragrans</i> Species of plant

Osmanthus fragrans, variously known as sweet osmanthus, sweet olive, tea olive, and fragrant olive, is a species native to Asia from the Himalayas through southern China to Taiwan, southern Japan and Southeast Asia as far south as Cambodia and Thailand.

Singaporean cuisine Culinary traditions of Singapore

Singaporean cuisine derived from several ethnic groups which have developed through centuries of political, economic, and social changes of this cosmopolitan city-state.

Malaysian Chinese cuisine

Malaysian Chinese cuisine is derived from the culinary traditions of Chinese Malaysian immigrants and their descendants, who have adapted or modified their culinary traditions under the influence of Malaysian culture as well as immigration patterns of Chinese to Malaysia. Because the vast majority of Chinese Malaysians are descendants of immigrants from southern China, Malaysian Chinese cuisine is predominantly based on an eclectic repertoire of dishes with roots from Fujian, Cantonese, Hakka and Teochew cuisines.

Chinese Indonesian cuisine Cuisine of the people of Chinese Indonesians

Chinese Indonesian cuisine is characterized by the mixture of Chinese with local Indonesian style. Chinese Indonesians, mostly descendant of Han ethnic Hokkien speakers, brought their legacy of Chinese cuisine, and modified some of the dishes with the addition of Indonesian ingredients, such as kecap manis, palm sugar, peanut sauce, chili, santan and local spices to form a hybrid Chinese-Indonesian cuisine. Some of the dishes and cakes share the same style as in Malaysia and Singapore which are known as the Nonya cuisine by the Peranakan.

Japanese Chinese cuisine

Japanese Chinese cuisine or Chūka is a style of Japanese cuisine served by Chinese restaurants popularized in Japan in the late 19th century and more recent times. This style of food is different from modern Chinatown Chinese food in Japan which is considered "authentic Chinese food", e.g. Yokohama Chinatown. The Shippoku style of cooking displays heavy influence from Chinese cuisine.

Bakmi Indonesian noodles with meat

Bakmi or bami is a type of wheat based noodles derived from Chinese cooking tradition. It was brought to Southeast Asia by Chinese immigrants from Southern Chinese provinces like Fujian. It is typically prepared seasoned in soy sauce and topped with pork products, which is often substituted for other protein sources in predominantly Muslim Indonesia. Chinese-style wheat noodles has become one of the most common noodle dishes, especially in Southeast Asian countries which have significant Chinese populations and known by various names.

Bing (bread)

Bing is a wheat flour-based Chinese food with a flattened or disk-like shape. These foods may resemble the flatbreads, pancakes and unleavened dough foods of non-Chinese cuisines. Many of them are similar to the Indian roti, French crêpes, Salvadoran pupusa, or Mexican tortilla, while others are more similar to cakes and cookies.

Siu yuk

Siu yuk is a variety of siu mei, or roasted meat dishes, in Cantonese cuisine. It is made by roasting an entire pig with seasonings, such as salt and vinegar in a charcoal furnace at high temperature. Roasted pigs of high quality have crisp skin and juicy and tender meat. Usually the meat is served plain with its skin, but it is sometimes served with soy sauce or hoisin sauce.

Red braised pork belly

Red braised pork belly or hong shao rou is a classic pork dish from mainland China, red-cooked using pork belly and a combination of ginger, garlic, aromatic spices, chilies, sugar, star anise, light and dark soy sauce, and rice wine. The pork belly is cooked until the fat and skin are gelatinous, soft, and melt easily in the mouth, while the sauce is usually thick, sweet and fairly sticky. The dish has a melt in the mouth texture that is formed as a result of a long braising process, during which the liquid reduces and becomes thick. It is generally served with steamed rice and dark green vegetables, often over holidays. The dish is often prepared with hard-boiled chicken eggs or vegetables, which are used to soak up the juices from the recipe.

Minced pork rice Minced pork rice dish

Minced pork rice is a rice dish that is commonly seen throughout Taiwan and Southern Fujian. The flavor may vary from one region to another, but the basic ingredients remain the same: ground pork marinated and boiled in soy sauce served on top of steamed rice. It is a type of gaifan dish.

Twice-cooked pork

Twice-cooked pork or double-cooked pork is a Chinese dish from Sichuan. The dish's ingredients include pork, which is simmered, sliced, and stir-fried; commonly stir-fried vegetables such as cabbage, bell peppers, onions, or scallions; and a sauce that may include Shaoxing rice wine, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, chili bean paste, and tianmianjiang bean paste.

Phuket cuisine

In the past, Phuket was one of Thailand’s commercial ports which traded with other countries. These cultural influences are reflected in the cuisine and local foods. Phuket cuisine and local food is the combination of many cultural food habits, whether they be Chinese, Malay or Thai. Some Phuket local food tastes sweet, such as Chinese Hakka cuisine, but it can also be spicy, such as in Thai cuisine and Malay cuisine.

Tangsuyuk Korean Chinese sweet and sour meat dish

Tangsuyuk (탕수육) is a Korean Chinese meat dish with sweet and sour sauce. It can be made with either pork or beef.

Luzhu huoshao

Luzhu huoshao is one of the most well-known traditional Beijing street foods. Long considered a luxury, the cuisine is especially prevalent in Beijing. The main ingredients are pork, pork lung, pork intestines, pork liver, tofu, and some may add fermented bean curd or chives sauce. It is served with bing bread.

Khao mu daeng

Khao mu daeng is Thai dish, the local variant of char siew with rice of Chinese cuisine.


  1. Shuster, Alvin (May 18, 1967). "Washington: The New York Times Guide to the Nation's Capital". R. B. Luce. Retrieved May 18, 2020 via Google Books.
  2. Archived 2007-10-07 at the Wayback Machine
  3. "木须肉的做法_木须肉怎么做_木须肉的家常做法【心食谱】". Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  4. "健康家常的木须肉". Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  5. Washington: The New York Times Guide to the Nation's Capital, by Alvin Shuster (R. B. Luce, 1967, p. 268).
  6. Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads, by Sylvia Lovegren (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005, p. 26).
  7. "No Matter How You Spell It, It's Still Mo-Shu-Ro," by Craig Claiborne (The New York Times, November 2, 1967).
  8. Lovegren, Sylvia. Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads. p. 109.
  9. "Chinese Gastronomy: Moo shu pork,木須肉,木樨肉和维基百科". Mar 27, 2008. Retrieved May 18, 2020.