Moo Goo Gai Pan: Mushroom and Chicken Stir Fry

I remember moo goo gai pan from my first job in a Chinese restaurant in upstate New York. As was the case for this Chinese kid and most Americanized Chinese dishes, the first time I ate it was on the job!

The first time I saw my father prepare moo goo gai pan, it was for a Polynesian Luau for three. Don’t ask me why they called a three course meal consisting of Chinese American dishes a “Polynesian Luau,” but the name apparently worked.

“The Luau” was one of the most popular items on the menu. The restaurant had lines out the door on summer weekend nights, and most showed up for that luau experience. (There was also the occasional 21-ounce NY strip steak on the American side of the menu, for those in a less festive mood.)

The Luau started with soup, followed by a Pu Pu platter appetizer course, and then the main dishes. A Luau for two consisted of Roast Pork Fried Rice and Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. If it was a luau for three, you were also served Moo Goo Gai Pan.

Moo Goo Gai Pan was actually the perfect addition of healthy vegetables to complement the rice and shrimp and that Pu Pu platter, which usually consisted of fried treats like egg rolls.

Note: this post was originally published in March 2016, with updates made to it in June 2019! 

What Is Moo Goo Gai Pan?

Moo Goo Gai Pan is a Cantonese dish that’s been served in Chinese restaurants pretty much ever since they appeared in the US. The name originates from the Cantonese dialect and translates directly to “mushrooms and sliced chicken.” 

Moo Goo Gai Pan, finished in a white sauce, is made with the large variety of white bok choy, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. The dish is definitely one of the healthiest you’ll find on any Chinese restaurant menu, and it has the delicate and subtle flavors characteristic of Cantonese cooking.

A Chinese “white sauce” simply means there is no soy sauce used in the dish. Instead, a white sauce dish like moo goo gai pan uses chicken stock, fresh ginger, garlic, and scallions. The result is an aromatic and flavorful dish that’s very easy to make at home!

Moo Goo Gai Pan on Rice, by thewoksoflife.comMoo Goo Gai Pan on Rice, by

I hope you enjoy this healthy Moo Goo Gai Pan. Remember, you can add pretty much any vegetable combination to this dish, using the recipe for the sauce as your foundation!

Moo Goo Gai Pan Ingredients, by thewoksoflife.comMoo Goo Gai Pan Ingredients, by

Moo Goo Gai Pan: Recipe Instructions

Place the chicken and 3 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. Massage the chicken with your hands until the water is absorbed by the chicken.

Next, add the rest of the marinade ingredients: 1 teaspoon canola oil, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of ground white pepper. Mix well and set aside for 20 minutes. For more information and preparing chicken for stir fries, see Bill’s post on Chicken velveting 101.

Marinating sliced chicken for stir-fry, thewoksoflife.comMarinating sliced chicken for stir-fry,

Heat the wok over high heat until it just starts to smoke.

Coat the perimeter of the wok with two tablespoons of oil, and spread the chicken in one layer around the wok. Let it sear for 20 seconds. Turn the chicken and let the other side sear for another 20 seconds. 

Turn the heat off, and transfer the chicken back to your marinade bowl. The chicken should be about 60% done.

Searing Sliced Chicken in Wok, thewoksoflife.comSearing Sliced Chicken in Wok,

Turn the burner back on to high heat, and add another tablespoon of oil, along with the ginger slices. Let the ginger infuse the oil for about 10 seconds.

Sliced ginger infusing oil, thewoksoflife.comSliced ginger infusing oil,

Add the scallions and garlic and stir fry for another 15 seconds. 

Ginger, Garlic, Scallions in wok, thewoksoflife.comGinger, Garlic, Scallions in wok,

Next, add the mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts.

Adding mushrooms and bamboo shoots, by thewoksoflife.comAdding mushrooms and bamboo shoots, by

Stir fry for 30 seconds, and add the bok choy.

Adding bok choy to stir-fry, by thewoksoflife.comAdding bok choy to stir-fry, by

Next, add the Shaoxing wine and stir-fry for another minute.

Stir-frying Moo Goo Gai Pan, by thewoksoflife.comStir-frying Moo Goo Gai Pan, by

Then add the seared chicken slices and the hot chicken stock. You can add more or less chicken stock depending on how much sauce you want in the dish.

It’s important to add hot or even boiling chicken stock to keep the wok up to temperature. Most stove burners at home don’t generate enough heat for a good stir-fry, so this is especially important for home cooks!

Come to think of it, every Chinese restaurant has a huge stock pot situated right next to each wok station that is constantly simmering. Its sole purpose is to provide hot, tasty stock for soups and many other dishes.

So at home, do like the restaurant chefs. Make your own homemade chicken stock and heat it up before adding it to any stir-fry dishes to build and preserve that wok hay!

If you don’t have time to make homemade chicken stock, then use an organic chicken base (We use Better Than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base, which we can get at our local Costco.) One jar lasts a long time in the fridge, and it’s perfect whenever we find ourselves without stock in the freezer or in the pantry. We also add it to veggie stir-fries for added flavor!

While the mixture is coming to a boil, add about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of white pepper, along with the sugar, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Stir until well-combined. Taste the sauce with a spoon and re-season to taste. 

Give the cornstarch slurry a quick stir, as the water and starch tend to separate, and add slowly to the wok while stirring constantly.

Adding cornstarch to thicken stir-fry sauce, thewoksoflife.comAdding cornstarch to thicken stir-fry sauce,

You can add more or less slurry, depending upon how thick you like your sauce to be. 

After cooking for another minute, serve immediately with steamed rice!

We added a bit of millet to our rice this time around! 

Moo Goo Gai Pan, by thewoksoflife.comMoo Goo Gai Pan, by

Enjoy this one!

Moo Goo Gai Pan, by thewoksoflife.comMoo Goo Gai Pan, by


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