Moo Goo Gai Pan (Chinese Chicken and Mushroom Stir Fry) Recipe

I spent most of my time in culinary school perpetually hungry (ironically). Like most college students, I was living on pennies and most of my meals came from our “Production 201” class—a course in which we prepared food for mass consumption.

On the rare occasion when I had a few bucks to spare, I would indulge in Chinese takeout. Moo Goo Gai Pan—Chinese Chicken and Mushroom Stir Fry—was my go-to meal.

Video: How to Make Moo Goo Gai Pan

What Is Moo Goo Gai Pan?

Sadly, it seems as though this once-popular chicken and mushroom stir fry has fallen out of favor with mainstream America. I don’t see it as often as I’d like on Chinese restaurant menus anymore.

This is a shame because it’s such a light, yet flavorful dish and it comes together so simply. It’s basically a quick stir fry dish of mushroom (“Moo goo” in Cantonese) and chicken (“gai”). “Pan” means slices, so the name translates as “sliced chicken with mushrooms.” The addition of snow peas and carrots brings more flavor.

And what’s more, Moo Goo Gai Pan’s chicken-based white sauce can be transformed into a vegetarian or even vegan meal with just a few tweaks. Because I think a 1990s Chinese take-out resurgence is in order, I’ve decided to make my own version!

Marta Rivera

How to Make a Great Stir Fry

Once you start cooking, stir fries come together quickly, the key to a fresh-tasting stir fry is to set up your ingredients conveyor-belt style in the order in which they will be cooked. If you don’t prep your ingredients in an orderly manner, some of them may become overcooked while you scramble to chop or grab others.

Consistent slicing is also an important factor in great stir fry dishes. Make sure to slice both your chicken and your veggies thinly and uniformly to ensure they cook at the same rate.

“Velveting” Technique for Stir Fried Chicken

Moo Goo Gai Pan involves a great culinary technique used in a lot of Chinese cooking called velveting. This involves coating the chicken (or any other meat or seafood) in a batter of beaten egg and cornstarch. This provides a light breading which also helps to thicken the sauce and keeps the chicken from drying out during high-heat cooking.

I use a whole egg so as not to waste the yolk, but, typically you would just use the egg white. If you don’t mind the waste, leave out the yolk, although I find there’s no difference in taste when using the whole egg. Just be sure to drain off as much as the egg mixture from the chicken as possible prior to cooking—otherwise it will turn into scrambled eggs when it hits the pan.

Marta Rivera

Ingredients for Moo Goo Gai Pan

Canned water chestnuts and bamboo shoots are usually found in the Asian foods section of most large grocery stores, and you can definitely find them at Asian grocery stores. They’re great to have on hand for this recipe or other quick stir-fries.

Want a Vegan Version of Moo Goo Gai Pan?

To transform this dish into a vegan meal, use pressed, firm tofu and vegetable stock instead of chicken and chicken stock. Omit the oyster sauce and double the amount of hoisin—which is kind of like a Chinese barbecue sauce. White pepper has a more subtle flavor and is more commonly used in Asian cuisines.

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