Novel Food: Mu Shu pancakes

UnsulliedLand Coverhighres

Book cover, painting by August Burns

In my novel,  A Free, Unsullied Land, Henriette’s brother Carl “wielded a knife with a surgeon’s precision and served each person crisp slices of skin and dark meat.” He’s aiming for so-called Peking duck, pumping air under the duck’s skin with a bicycle pump. So much easier to write food than to make it work as small tastes for a crowd!

I started with Mu Shu pancakes, lucky to find a detailed recipe in the March-April 2015 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Their precise instructions work! You make a dough with boiling hot water and flour:

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. boiling water
  • 2 t. toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 t. vegetable oil

Mu Shu with Bubbles

Let it rest 1/2 hour, divide into 12 equal pieces,  pat each into a three inch round and paint one with sesame oil. Squish that one on top of another, sesame oil inside, and roll them out together into a 7″ pancake. Grease a skillet with that 1/2 t. vegetable oil and wipe out. Then fry  pancakes one by one until bubbles appear and a few brown spots can be seen on the bottom. Then turn and fry on the other side a few seconds until it, too, is freckled. Remove, and when it is cool enough to handle, peel the two apart.

This traditional technique really works! Especially good news for making ahead: they keep, they freeze, they don’t stick together, they reheat in the microwave without damage. Next step for me: figure out what goes inside.

If you have a question or comment (please do!) and are uncertain what to do, please view the list of recent posts on the right and select “Please Leave a Comment.” There you will find detailed and simple instructions. Thank you!

Mu Shu with Brown Spots

Mu Shu with Brown Spots

Peeling Apart Mu Shu

Peeling Apart Mu Shu

I am the author of The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer's memoir of loss, faith and family, one of Image Update's Ten Best of 2009. My first novel, A Free, Unsullied Land, was published by Fomite Press. I am a Board member of Links Hall, an incubator and presenter of dance and performance art.

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