Originally a Cantonese dish, the Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe we know today is the Americanized version, made more suitable for our taste buds. The recipe generally consists of sliced or cubed chicken with healthy white button mushrooms & other vegetables.
Personally, despite having a good laugh about the ridiculous name, I really like the taste itself mostly because of the various vegetables. The addition of terrific tasting and healthy bok choy, snow peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts as well as Chinese cabbages add more color and an extra boost of nutrition to this popular dish.
Moreover, the fact that I can add chicken, shrimp, or any vegan alternative to this dish means it can be customized in a variety of ways. The authentic moo goo gai pan recipe takes very little time and effort, and you can get the ingredients in any self-respecting grocery shop.
Why Is It Named “Moo Goo Gai Pan”
Every single part of this name has something to do with what is in moo goo gai pan. It contains cut or cubed chicken (gai pin in Cantonese) as well as button mushrooms (moggu in Cantonese). So basically, it’s a dish consisting of chicken and vegetables. Why can’t we just call it something simple like “Stir-Fried Chicken with Vegetables”?
Well, that’s mostly because of a technique called “velveting” used in its preparation. Velveting, as well as the special marinade and sauce used in the preparation of this dish, gives it a juicy, tender, and inoffensive flavor. It can be customized and served in a variety of ways, with a wide collection of side-dishes. Let’s get down to learning more about how to make moo goo gai pan.
Things You Need to Make Moo Goo Gai Pan
First of all, make sure your kitchen has all the tools and appliances needed to make this dish. You’re going to need a stir-frying pan, a couple of spatula (or more if you need), some foil paper, your stove of choice, a good pair of chopping board and knife, a sturdy whisk, and some bowls.
Have I forgotten anything? I have! You’re also going to need a set of your best serving plates to serve up this beautiful dish. I would suggest a subtle and light color, such as white or cream because the dish itself will be popping with colors!
Ingredients and Measurement
Here are the basic ingredients that you’re going to need for our easy moo goo gai pan recipe. Of course, if you’re trying to avoid any of them, I’m also going to include a list of alternative ingredients you can use later.
- 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts (uniform and lean sliced)
- 1 egg white
- 2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon of oil (peanut oil is preferable but any vegetable oil would do)
- 2 teaspoons of chopped garlic cloves.
- 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger
- 2 cups of cut-up mushrooms (wiped clean, not washed in water)
- 1 cup of snow peas
- 1/2 cup of thinly cut up carrots
- 18-ounce can of cut-up water chestnuts (drained)
- 18-ounce can of cut up bamboo shoots (drained)
- 3/4 cup of chicken broth
- 1 Egg
- 11/2 teaspoon of table sugar
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 11/2 teaspoon of sesame oil to garnish.
- Seasoning (salt and pepper) to taste
For the Special Sauce
- 2 tablespoon of cornstarch
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
- 1 cup of chicken broth
- 2 tablespoon of oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon of soy sauce
For the Velveting
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon of rice wine
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
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A Quick Rundown of The Steps
Before I go into the detailed recipe, I should give you a short summary of what prepping and cooking steps you would expect to be going through. You should always start by cooking the vegetables and the protein. Additionally, don’t forget to cook the utensils as well, and make sure your stove is pristine. Then, check if your cutting board is clean and that your knife is sharp and cleaned.
Now, get down to chopping and cutting the moo goo gai pan ingredients. Then, make the marinade. At this point, you should make the sauce, which is quite important for the recipe’s success. Then comes another focus point, velveting the chicken. Then you go through the steps that bring the whole dish together.
Velveting the Chicken
I have often wondered just what it is that keeps the chicken in a Moo Goo Gai Pan dish so juicy and tender despite stir-frying? Well, velveting is the answer. The baking soda used is what gives the chicken its melt-in-the-mouth tenderness. Firstly, slice the chicken breast thinly against the grain, about ¼ inch thick.
Then whisk the velveting ingredients in a bowl until the marinade is smooth and free of clumps. Next, add the chicken slices to this marinade and make sure the mixture covers the slices evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Now, while the chicken is sitting in the marinade, get on with more prepping. As I have already mentioned in the ingredients section which vegetables need to be sliced and chopped, you should get them done already and also drain the canned ingredients.
The Art of Making Moo Goo Gai Pan Sauce
Now that we’ve got some of the prepping out of the way, we should focus on the sauce. Doing so in some small steps will help you keep track of the recipe. To begin with, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, and chicken stock, etc need to be mixed all together in a small bowl. Once the mixture is smooth, it’s ready to be used in the recipe.
Bringing It All Together
Fry the Vegetables
- Take your stir-frying pan and make sure it’s spacious enough for the chicken and vegetables together.
- Pour 1 teaspoon of oil and heat it. Make sure the flame is not too high.
- Add the carrots, 1 tablespoon of water, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously.
- Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes or until mushrooms are browned and edible.
- Then add the snow peas over it and cook for 1-2 minutes more or until cooked.
- Stir in the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots together in the same pan.
- Flavor the vegetables to taste with table salt and pepper.
- Remove the vegetables from the pan and place them on a plate. Cover the plate with foil paper to keep warm.
Sear the Chicken
- Wipe the pan with a paper towel to get rid of any burnt leftover pieces. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over moderately high heat.
- Add the marinated chicken to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, flipping when needed until chicken is well cooked on both sides.
- Add the evenly chopped garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Add the vegetables back to the pan and heat through. This might take around a minute.
- Pour in the moo goo gai sauce we prepared beforehand, and turn up the heat.
- Bring the sauce to a boil and boil for around 1 minute or until the sauce has just started to condense.
To garnish Moo Goo Gai Pan, sesame seeds and chopped spring onions both are appropriate, as they add a satisfying crunch and aroma to each bite. Not only that, but they also make your Moo Goo Gai Pan more healthy. The toastie, nutty flavor is not the only thing you get from sesame seeds; it’s also a good way to get more Vitamin B and polyunsaturated fat into your system.
On the other hand, spring onions have a combination of the benefits of onions & greens. As green onions contain fiber which helps to feel full & keeps cholesterol levels down, it’s really popular as a garnish. Also, they are a marvelous source of vitamin A, K & vitamin C, etc. After you’re done with garnishing, serve Moo Goo Gai Pan immediately.
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What To Serve With Moo Goo Gai Pan
Most people prefer some carbs to go with their main dishes, and that goes for Moo Goo Gai Pan as well. It is traditionally served with white rice, noodles & low carb veggies.
Rice: Jasmine rice and brown rice are the most used rice with Moo Goo Gai Pan. However, any other cooked rice will also pop up this dish easily.
Noodles: Ramen, soba noodles, rice noodles, or even pasta linguine are a pleasant way to mix things up!
Thin pancakes: While this might sound unusual, thin pancakes go really well with Moo Goo Gai Pan.
Low carb veggies: Cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice are also alternatives to rice.
Aside from carbs, you can also consider some extra sides, such as:
Appetizers: crab rangoons, homemade egg rolls, chicken lettuce wraps, pineapple cream cheese wontons, sesame chicken egg rolls or sweet & sour chicken egg rolls, etc are popular appetizers with moo goo gai pan.
Soup: On a blustery evening, nothing beats a bowl of hearty soup to round up your meal. Egg drop soup is quite a popular option that goes perfectly with Moo Goo Gai Pan. Other choices include wonton soup and Japanese miso soup that make this dish more enjoyable.
Salad: While Moo Goo Gai Pan is already made using a healthy recipe, it never hurts to add more nutritious dishes to your meal. Go ahead and include a salad side to go with this dish. Chinese salad, crunchy Asian salad, and Asian pineapple salad do quite well to enhance the taste of Moo Goo Gai Pan.
Quick Recipe Tips
- Cut the vegetables in a way that they are the same width. That’ll ensure that they cook evenly and will save you a lot of headaches.
- To avoid hassle while cutting the chicken, put the meat in the freezer first. As a result the meat will turn a little stiff and you’ll be able to go at it with a knife easier.
- If you think the sauce isn’t quite thick enough after you’ve already poured it in the stir-fry, make a bit of slurry using water and a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch and slowly add it to the pan, stirring constantly. This will thicken the sauce.
- The sauce will keep thickening the more you keep it on the heat. If you think it’s getting too thick, whisk in a bit more chicken broth. However, make sure the broth is boiling hot or as hot as you can make it so the stir fry isn’t affected.
- If you want to make the sauce sweeter, add brown sugar or honey to taste.
- For more bite, you can add chili sauce or sweet chili sauce.
How to Replace Ingredients in Moo Goo Gai Pan
Protein: You can easily use shrimp instead of chicken to Moo Goo Gai Pan. That way, you can skip the velveting part and just add shelled and cleaned shrimps a couple of minutes before you take the dish off the heat. If you add shrimp earlier, the texture of the shrimp will get rubbery.
On the other hand, you can also use pork if that’s a flavor you prefer. If a vegan Moo Goo Gai Pan is what you’re after, swap out the protein with cubed tofu.
Vegetables: The traditional moo goo gai pan recipe utilizes carrots, mushrooms, snow peas, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots that give the dish its unique flavors and colors. However, you can try adding your favorite vegetables as well, such as:
- Bell peppers
- Snap peas
- Baby corn
- Bean sprout
- Cabbage(Chinese, green or red)
- Bok choy
You can also try a gluten-free healthy moo goo gai pan recipe by picking gluten-free soy sauce and other ingredients. Additionally, for an organic moo goo gai pan recipe, just pick organic ingredients from your favorite shop and you’re all set!
Health Benefits of Moo Goo Gai Pan
Since this dish is packed with lean protein and veggies and uses a relatively negligible amount of oil, it’s healthier than regular fried food. Also, the moo goo gai pan dish contains around 160 calories, 9.2 g carbs, 2.1 g fiber, 6.5 g net carbs & additional 6.9 g net carbs which can be considered quite healthy.
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To conclude, moo goo gai pan is one of the healthiest Chinese food around as it’s full of veggies, white meat, and less oil. You can also safely store this dish for about 3 days by cooling it and placing it in the fridge.
This moo goo gai pan recipe takes only 20 minutes to cook. As you serve this fresh and warm every time and the chicken is so tender, it will be well-liked in family get-together & big occasions. Moreover, your dining table will be spilling with colors!
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