If you read my recent post on Thai cuisine, you’re aware of my strained relationship with food from Asian cultures—copious amounts of sodium, hidden fish sauce in an uncomfortable array of menu items, and nutritionally void refined white rice do not exactly reflect my health-conscious vegan vibe. However, as a young child, my parents and I often patronized our neighborhood Chinese buffet, stereotypically named “Golden Palace.” After snatching up a dainty pocket or two of crab rangoon, a hearty forkful of lo mein noodles, and a couple steamed mussels in a fishy broth, I reveled in my ethnic meal with a sense of utmost cultural diversity before heading to the dessert bar for a bowl of decidedly un-Chinese vanilla pudding.
My enthusiasm for Americanized Chinese food waned after realizing the alarming health concerns associated with the MSG, high sodium levels, and often fried foods found in the cuisine. I began opting for the astoundingly boring yet lone healthy menu item of simple steamed vegetables whenever my parents ordered Chinese take-out, but soon discovered the silliness of paying for food that I could easily make myself for free…and probably much tastier.
In my everyday cooking ventures, though, I do enjoy experimenting with vegan and health-friendly Asian ingredients such as tahini, tamari, brown rice vinegar, and ginger. Lauren at The Spiced Plate recently triggered my urge to implement these Oriental-style condiments with her Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Fennel, and Carrot Salad—a delicious medley of warmed yet crisp veggies complemented by an inherently umami undertone. As I savored the scrumptious stir-fry (I wouldn’t really call it a salad), images of a past experience with Moo Shu vegetables from a Chinese restaurant sprang to the forefront of my memory. Traditional Moo Shu dishes feature shredded vegetables (mostly cabbage), some sort of meat (usually pork), and scrambled eggs, all stir-fried and served alongside thin pancakes. Lauren’s salad certainly satisfied the shredded vegetable (brussels sprouts are simply mini-cabbages, after all) and Asian flavor aspects of the dish in a mouthwatering (and vegan!) manner, though I itched to create a heartier meal based on her original recipe.
Luckily, it just so happened that the very next day Gena at Choosing Raw posted a recipe for Mung Bean Pancakes featuring sprouted mung beans from TruRoots, a bag of which has sat in my pantry for the past few months. I contemplated that by thinning out Gena’s original batter and cooking the pancakes in more of a crepe-like fashion, I could veganize and healthify the Moo Shu pancakes found in Chinese restaurants to accompany my adaptation of Lauren’s salad, all while fulfilling the patient sprouted mung beans’ destiny of culinary greatness.
Moo Shu Veggies with Mung Bean Crepes—(Gluten Free, Soy Free if using coconut aminos instead of tamari)
Serves 3-4 with about 14 crepes.
Moo Shu Veggies Ingredients and Method:
- 1 tsp olive oil (substitute sesame oil for an added Asian flair).
- 1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and finely shredded or grated (I used the shredding attachment on my food processor to make quick work of the sprouts and the rest of the veggies).
- 1 fennel bulb, fronds and core removed, finely shredded or grated
- 2 medium carrots, finely shredded or grated
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1/8 cup water or veggie broth
- 2 tbsp low-sodium tamari (can sub coconut aminos for a soy-free entree.)
- 2 tsp brown rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp tahini
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large wok or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the shredded vegetables and ginger and stir often for about 5 minutes until they’re tender yet retain a bit of crunch. Add the chickpeas to warm through. Meanwhile, whisk together the water, tamari, vinegar, and tahini in a small bowl. Pour over the vegetables and stir fry for another minute or so. Add the pepper to taste and remove from the heat.
Mung Bean Pancake Ingredients and Method:
- 1 cup sprouted mung beans, soaked at least 1 hour (allow to soak overnight if using unsprouted mung beans).
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp tamari
- 2 tsp mirin (can substitute 2 tsp brown rice vinegar mixed with 1 tsp agave nectar).
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. The batter will be pretty thin. Stir in the onion.
Heat a small, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and pour the batter by 1/4 cupfuls. Cook for about 4 minutes on the first side or until the edges of the crepe begin to loosen from the sides, then flip and cook for another 2 minutes. To ensure nonsticking, spray a thin layer of cooking spray (I like the Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray from Spectrum) onto the hot skillet before cooking another crepe.
You can keep the finished crepes warm in a 200°F oven while you cook the veggies and the rest of the crepes.
Place a crepe on a plate, spread a thick line of veggies down the middle, and roll up into a fat cigar-like bundle of deliciousness.
Meal Checklist: Protein—chickpeas, mung beans, tahini. Whole Grain—brown rice flour. Vegetables—fennel, carrots, onion, ginger. Leafy Greens—brussels sprouts.
Comment Provoking Questions: What’s your attitude toward Chinese food? What do you order at a Chinese restaurant? What is your favorite type of Asian cuisine?
Until next time, Ali.