What Is Moo Goo Gai Pan?

Everything you’ve always wondered, from what is in moo goo gai pan to how to make it.

July 07, 2021


Photo by: Sino images/Getty Images

Sino images/Getty Images

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By Clarissa Wei for Food Network Kitchen

Clarissa Wei is a freelance journalist based in Taipei.

Moo goo gai pan is an American-Chinese classic, and a spin-off of a Cantonese staple dish. Essentially, it’s a hearty mix of chicken and mushrooms, and can be served over rice or a bed of noodles.

What Is Moo Goo Gai Pan?

Moo goo gai pan is an English transliteration of the Cantonese dish, “moh gu gai pin,” which literally means plate of chicken and mushrooms. It’s a chicken stir-fry that’s thickened with cornstarch, and then paired with a bed of crunchy vegetables. Compared to the versions in China, moo goo gai pan in the States has a much higher proportion of vegetables. Feel free to use whatever is in season, just make sure to cut the vegetables so that they’re about the same size as the chicken.

Moo Goo Gai Pan in a bowl with chop sticks.


Moo Goo Gai Pan in a bowl with chop sticks.

Photo by: crspix/Getty Images

crspix/Getty Images

What Is In Moo Goo Gai Pan?

The main ingredients in this dish are boneless chicken breasts and mushrooms. The chicken is cut into strips and dipped in cornstarch and egg white for a velveting effect; this makes the meat incredibly soft and tender. Without the cornstarch, the thin slices of chicken are prone to overcooking and might get too stringy or tough.

The mushrooms are usually a white button mushroom that’s sliced into pieces. Canned button mushrooms work as well. Finally, a handful of crunchy vegetables are added for texture, like white chestnut, fresh snap peas, carrots and, and bamboo shoots. Substitutions are more than welcomed.

How to Make Moo Goo Gai Pan

Moo goo gai pan is quite easy to make. The best way to save some time is to cut and portion out everything first.

  1. Prep all the ingredients. Slice the chicken and mushroom into thin pieces. Cut the water chestnuts in half and neatly chop the rest of the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Coat the chicken. Toss the chicken strips in corn starch and egg whites and let that marinate for about 30 minutes.
  3. Cook the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender. Remove the vegetables to a plate.
  4. Cook the chicken. Add a bit more oil to the pan, then add the chicken and sear it until it’s cooked through.
  5. Combine the chicken and vegetables with a slurry. Add the vegetables back to the pan and cook the chicken and vegetables over high heat with a slurry of cornstarch, chicken stock, soy sauce and a bit of sugar. Cook just until the slurry thickens.
  6. Serve the hot dish immediately with white rice.

Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipes


Photo by: Antonis Achilleos

Antonis Achilleos

This is a Cantonese-style moo goo gai pan, more similar to the versions found in China than in the States.

Velveted Chicken Stir-Fry with Shiitake Mushrooms and Bok Choy
A classic moo goo gai pan but with gorgeous, umami-heavy shiitakes instead of the usual white button mushrooms.

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