Chao He Cai (Beijing-Style Vegetarian Moo Shu, 炒合菜)

5 from 1 vote
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A Northern Chinese style vegetarian moo shu that uses colorful crunchy vegetables and scrambled eggs to create the best texture, served on a thin flour pancake brushed with a savory sweet sauce. It is very easy to put together and extremely satisfying to eat. Serve it as a main course for the best vegetarian dinner! {Vegetarian}

Homemade vegetarian moo shu served with sauce and pancakes

What is Chao He Cai 

After my last visit to the northern Chinese restaurant Auntie Guan’s Kitchen, I kept thinking about the delicious vegetarian moo shu we ordered. In Beijing, we call the dish Chao He Cai (炒合菜), or translated literally, Harmony Stir Fry. It is a dish we serve during the spring solstice. It uses colorful vegetables that represent the upcoming warm months: bean sprouts, peppers, and carrots. It’s usually cooked with some protein such as eggs or fried tofu. The thin flour pancakes served together with it are called Chun Bing (春饼), or Spring Pancakes, which are commonly known as moo shu pancakes or mandarin pancakes in the US. 

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate spring. The use of colorful vegetables with great texture contrast and the tender, delicate spring pancakes all make the meal very enjoyable and uplifting. Just like the coming spring. 

Stir fried bean sprouts, pepper, carrot, egg and wood ear mushrooms

Ingredients of vegetarian moo shu

Choice of vegetables 

There are many ways to make vegetable combos for a vegetarian moo shu. But I’m really excited to introduce this one because it is so different from the usual shredded cabbage moo shu you usually see in Chinese takeout.

For the Beijing style vegetarian moo shu, bean sprouts are a main ingredient. Many other vegetables are added for their color and texture – here I used pepper, carrot, wood ear mushrooms and garlic chives.

You can definitely reduce or add one or two vegetables, or replace the current ones with what’s more readily available. For example, spinach is a great choice to add color and a tender texture. Garlic chives can be replaced with green onion or onion, which are more commonly available. Wood ear mushrooms can be skipped if you do not have them, although I do love their texture.

I encourage you to give the recipe a try as it is. When I served the dish with my vegetarian friend, she told me it was the best moo shu she’d ever had!

Beijing style vegetarian moo shu

How to make this dish vegan

If you want to make the dish vegan, I recommend replacing the eggs with some fried tofu (tofu puffs) and soaked vermicelli. Both add a tender texture and a meaty mouthfeel.

What pancake to use

Back when I was living in Beijing, my family always served the dish with the thin flour pancakes known as spring pancakes. I shared a homemade recipe for them in the past if you’re interested.

If you have access to an Asian market, you might be able to find the pre-made pancakes in the refrigerated or freezer section. They are usually called “Moo Shu Shells”, “Moo Shu Pancakes”, “Peking Duck Wrappers”, or “Mandarin Pancakes”. The store-bought moo shu pancakes can be quite large, but I found them to be quite nice because you can wrap more vegetables in them.

But if you cannot find the proper pancakes, you can use flour tortillas (for tacos) instead. The tortillas are thicker than the moo shu pancakes. So I would stuff them like tacos, with loads of vegetables, instead of trying to make a wrap like a burrito.

Moo shu wrapper package

The sauce for vegetarian moo shu

The best sauce for vegetarian moo shu is Sweet Bean Sauce, or Tian Mian Jiang (甜面酱). It is a thick dark brown sauce made from fermented flour, which has a salty savory fermented taste and a hint of sweetness. It is a must-have sauce for Northern Chinese cooking. 

If you do not have sweet bean sauce, you can use hoisin sauce instead. I have a homemade hoisin sauce recipe that works perfectly here. 

I personally always prefer sweet bean sauce over hoisin sauce, because it has a deeper and richer flavor. The homemade hoisin sauce works better than store-bought, because it is less loaded with sugar.

Tian Mian Jiang (Sweet Bean Sauce)

Fun fact: quite a few times I have seen Chinese restaurants list hoisin sauce on their menu, when they actually serve sweet bean sauce. I suspect they used the wrong name on purpose because hoisin is more commonly known in the US. And that might be why sometimes your homemade dish tastes different from the restaurant version. 

Mise en place

When you’re ready to cook, your table should have: mixed sauce, rehydrated wood ear mushrooms and carrots, beaten eggs, garlic, pepper, chives (or green onions) and bean sprouts. I grouped some vegetables together because I added them at the same time during the stir fry. It makes the stir fry easier and I have a few less dishes to clean.

Ingredients for making vegetarian moo shu
Stir fried bean sprouts, pepper, carrot, egg and wood ear mushrooms close up

How to cook vegetarian moo shu

Before starting your vegetarian moo shu stir fry, you should prepare a steamer to heat up the moo shu pancakes. If using store-bought pancakes, it’s totally fine to heat them up in the microwave. If using a microwave, you should cook the stir fry first, then heat up the pancakes.

Cooking vegetarian moo shu is super easy:

  1. Scramble the eggs and remove them from the pan
  2. Saute garlic to release fragrance
  3. Cook the wood ear mushroom and carrots
  4. Stir fry the rest of the vegetables together
  5. Mix in the sauce 
  6. Add back the cooked eggs to finish up
How to make vegetarian moo shu step-by-step

How to serve vegetarian moo shu

Once you heat up the moo shu pancakes, it’s best to cover them (using a dish, or some clean towels, or keep them in the steamer) so they stay tender and warm. 

When you’re ready to eat, peel off a pancake and lay it on a flat clean dish. Spread a thin layer of the sauce and top it with a generous helping of vegetable stir fry. You can wrap it up like you’re making a burrito, by folding it from one side, tucking the bottom, and rolling over to form a wrap. But I always fold both sides together so I can maximize the amount of vegetable filling I can stuff in.

Vegetarian moo shu can be served as an appetizer or a main course during a multi-course meal. However, I think this one is so delicious and satisfying to eat, that I totally see it as the main dish on your dinner table.

Vegetarian moo shu on a moo shu wrapper

Other delicious vegetarian dishes to add to your meal 

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A Northern Chinese style vegetarian moo shu that uses colorful crunchy vegetables and scrambled eggs to create the best texture, served on a thin flour pancake brushed with a savory sweet sauce. It is very easy to put together and extremely satisfying to eat. Serve it as a main course for the best vegetarian dinner! {Vegetarian}

Chao He Cai (Beijing-Style Vegetarian Moo Shu, 炒合菜)

5 from 1 vote
A Northern Chinese style vegetarian moo shu that uses colorful crunchy vegetables and scrambled eggs to create the best texture, served on a thin flour pancake brushed with a savory sweet sauce. It is very easy to put together and extremely satisfying to eat. Serve it as a main course for the best vegetarian dinner! {Vegetarian}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: homestyle
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Soaking

Sitr Fry Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (or sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch (Optional) (*Footnote 1)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir Fry

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 eggs , beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 4 cloves garlic , finely chopped
  • 1/2 carrot , sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 lb (225 g) bean sprouts
  • 1 pepper of your choice (bell pepper, anaheim pepper, or hot pepper, sliced into thin strips)
  • 12 stalks garlic chives , chopped into 2” (5 cm) pieces (or 3 green onions, sliced into 2” / 5 cm sticks then halved)

Serving

  • 6 to 8 Moo shu pancakes , homemade or store-bought or flour tortillas (*Footnote 2)
  • Sweet bean paste , or hoisin sauce

Instructions

To rehydrate the mushrooms

  • Add the dried wood ear mushrooms to a small bowl and 1 cup of hot water to cover. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, until the wood ear mushrooms turn tender throughout. Drain the mushrooms. Remove and discard the tough ends. Cut into bite sized pieces (if needed) and set aside.

For the sauce

  • Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Prepare the moo shu pancakes (*Footnote 3)

  • Set up a steamer by adding 2” (5cm) water to the pot and bringing it to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper, just slightly bigger than the pancakes. Cut a few small holes through the paper. Place the paper on the steaming rack, then the pancakes onto the paper.
  • When the water is boiling, place the steaming rack over the pot and cover. Steam for 10 minutes, or according to the package instructions, until the pancakes are hot throughout. Turn off the heat.

To cook the stir fry

  • While the pancakes are cooking, make the stir fry. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large skillet or wok (*Footnote 4). Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the eggs. Let cook until the bottom is set. Slightly scramble and cut into smaller pieces until the eggs are just cooked through. Transfer to a plate.
  • Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and the garlic to the skillet. Stir a few times to release the fragrance.
  • Add the carrot and wood ear mushrooms. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
  • Add the bean sprouts, pepper and garlic chives. Stir and cook for 2 minutes or so, until the vegetables are softened but still crispy.
  • Pour in the sauce and add back the eggs. Stir until the sauce has mixed well. Taste the vegetables. Adjust the seasoning by adding a pinch of salt, if needed. Transfer everything to a big plate.

To serve

  • Serve the vegetables, pancakes and the sauce. To eat, spread a thin layer of the sweet bean paste (or hoisin sauce) on the pancake, and place some vegetables in the center. Wrap up the vegetables like you’re making a burrito. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. The cornstarch will slightly thicken the sauce so it coats the ingredients better. But it’s totally OK to skip it in this recipe.
  2. The moo shu pancakes I used were huge, so I only needed 6 pancakes. If you’re using smaller pancakes, you might need about a dozen.
    If using frozen pancakes, you only need to thaw the package for a few minutes at room temperature so you can take out the portion you need.
    If you do not have moo shu pancakes, use flour tortillas instead. Tortillas are usually a bit thicker than pancakes. So you’ll want to use a lot of filling per tortilla, like making a taco.
  3. Alternatively you can heat up the pancakes in the microwave. I prefer to use two layers of wet paper towels to cover the pancakes while heating, so they won’t dry out. You can heat up a stack of pancakes in one go and you should be able to separate them after heating up.
  4. If you are using a carbon steel pan or cast iron pan, you might want to slightly increase the amount of oil so the eggs won’t stick to the pan. The vegetables will also be tastier if you use a generous amount of oil (wood ear mushrooms and carrots absorb oil so they require a bit more to be tasty).

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 265kcal, Carbohydrates: 26.8g, Protein: 9.7g, Fat: 14.5g, Saturated Fat: 2.9g, Cholesterol: 123mg, Sodium: 575mg, Potassium: 334mg, Fiber: 3.3g, Sugar: 4.7g, Calcium: 72mg, Iron: 2mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Karen says:

    Hi Maggie, Could you please clarify the Vegetarian Moo Shu recipe please? There are there 2 sauces? One for the stir fry that you gave the recipe for and add into the stir fry, but then to serve, you say to “spread a thin layer of the sauce” on the pancake. That would be the hoisin sauce, right? I got confused.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Yes! Sorry for the confusion. I just updated the recipe and hope now it’s more clear.

  2. J-Mom says:

    5 stars
    This was really great, being able to eat a lot of veggies. Did not miss having meat. Thank you for the recipe

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