Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe
What is Moo Goo Gai Pan?
Moo Goo Gai Pan is a typical Americanized Cantonese dish, a simple stir-fry dish using button mushroom and chicken slices as its main ingredients. Honestly, I’ve never heard of this dish before when I was in China. Now I’ve been living in the States for five years, and I just learned what Moo Goo Gai Pan is. Well, it’s kind of simple if you see the translation. “Moo goo” means “button mushroom”, “Gai” means “chicken”, and “Pan” means “slices”. The hard part is, for a person like me who only speaks Mandarin, or an English-speaking person like you, we have no idea why “Gai” means “chicken” and “Pan” means “slices”. The answer is really simple—that’s just how they pronounce it in Cantonese.
Why Moo Goo Gai Pan is so popular?
Why a Cantonese dish is so famous in a foreign country, especially in the United States? As we all know, food is closely related to people. No matter where we live, food is an essential part in our life. To find the answer to this question, we should trace its history back to as early as 19th century.
The History of Chinese American
Cantonese people were among the first group of Chinese immigrants to other countries. It’s not hard to understand why from the geographic perspective. Guangdong Province is near the coast, located in Southern China. Cantonese people have been better able to emigrate by sea to Southeast Asia or even countries in other continents. Besides, Guangdong province has served as the gateway into Mainland China since ancient dynasties. It has received more foreign exposure than any other places in Mainland China.
During the California Gold Rush period, Cantonese people started to gain presence in the United States in 1850. This number grew to 10% of California population before immigration restriction started. They came to build railroads, dig mines, or perform other types of hard industrial work. It wasn’t easy at all. The social discrimination at every level of society, the opposition from labor and political organizations, and pressure being isolated and condemned living in a foreign country, all these factors made the situation extremely harsh for early immigrants. Later in 1882, the United States Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to prohibit Chinese immigrants for the next ten years. This law added additional suffering to Chinese immigrants who left China without their families. This situation only got better after World War II as the United States and China became allies. In 1943, the US government permitted Chinese entries again. After the immigration reform in 1965, many Mandarin speakers came to the United States to settle.
How American-Chinese Food Was Developed
During the 19th Century, a few Cantonese people opened small restaurants to feed their Chinese compatriots. The ingredients used in authentic Chinese cuisine were very limited. Back in that time, they didn’t have the luxury of big Asian grocery stores or Chinese farms that produce traditional Chinese vegetables. As time went by, the restaurants started to serve American workmen, altering their recipes to satisfy the local taste and avail themselves of local ingredients. That was the start of American-Chinese food. Some well-known dishes include Moo Goo Gai Pan, Chow Mein, Egg Foo Young, Egg Drop Soup, Fried Rice, Lo Mein, or Moo Shu Pork. They also developed some recipes of special sauce, such as Moo Goo Gai Pan sauce, to make the food have a more consistent taste.
Moo Goo Gai Pan has been known for over a hundred years now. But it is mostly found in Chinese to-go restaurants or typical Cantonese restaurants. As more Chinese immigrate to the United States, a second type of main dish becomes popular too. It is the specialty dish, served in Hunan, Szechwan, Shanghai, Taiwanese, or North-eastern China restaurants. These restaurants offer a much more pleasant dining experience and more expensive meals.
Moo Goo Gai Pan’s Nutrition
Do you want to eat healthy and nutritious food? Pay some attention to varieties in a single dish and get the most out of it! Mixing a variety of ingredients is a good way to make authentic and healthy Chinese food. Today’s recipe, Moo Goo Gai Pan, is a good example! Not only because chicken and mushroom are nutritious food, but you can add as many ingredients as you want, such as carrots, celery, or snow peas.
Compared to beef or pork, chicken contains higher quality protein and lower fat. In addition, the protein found in chicken is rich in all essential amino acids, which are easily absorbed by human body. Chicken contains phospholipid that plays an important part in human growth and development. Chicken also has a good therapeutic effect on malnutrition, cold chills, fatigue, irregular menstruation, anemia, or weakness embolism. Chinese medicine believes that chicken is good for spleen, stomach, blood circulation, bones and muscles.
Most people don’t know that mushroom is a good source of protein. The fact is very surprising–it contains above 30% of protein, which is even higher than ordinary vegetables or fruit. It has at least 18 kinds of amino acids; eight of them are essential amino acids for human body. It also contain two kinds of polysaccharides which have significant anti-cancer effect, known for the “natural anti-cancer drug”.
Moo Goo Gai Pan’s Recipe
Moo Goo Gai Pan’s Ingredients
Chicken Breast: 1 piece
Mushroom: 3-4 pieces
Green Onion: 1
White Pepper Powder: 1 teaspoon
Soy Sauce: 1 tablespoon
Oyster Sauce: 1 tablespoon
Salt: 1 teaspoon
Cooking Wine: 1 tablespoon
Starch: 1 tablespoon
Moo Goo Gai Pan’s Cooking Steps
- Wash and remove the fat on chicken breast.
- Knock the chicken breast with the side of knife a few times. This is a very necessary step to make sure chicken breast is soft and tasty.
- Cut chicken breast to small slices.
- Mix chicken slices with 1 teaspoon white pepper powder, 1 tablespoon cooking wine, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon starch. Let it stay for 20 minutes.
- Wash the mushrooms and remove the roots.
- Cut mushrooms to slices.
- Boil mushroom for 20 seconds.
- Cut green onion for reserve.
- Heat oil first then stir-fry chicken slices.
- Take out chicken when it turns white.
- Add diced green onions.
- Add sliced mushrooms.
- Add chicken again and stir-fry.
- Add soy sauce, oyster sauce and salt. Stir-fry well and it will be ready to serve.
Tips On How to Make Authentic Moo Goo Gai Pan
(1) It’s not recommended to use fresh mushrooms to cook authentic Moo Goo Gai Pan; instead, you should choose dried mushrooms, as the dried ones have much stronger flavor than the fresh ones. You can buy dried mushrooms in most Asian grocery stores, which costs around $5 for a package with 500g of dried mushrooms.
(2) It’s necessary to soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for at least 20 minutes and then cut them to slices. You may want to squeeze water out of mushrooms. But very importantly, please do not overdo it; otherwise it will taste dry and hard after stir-frying.
(3) In addition to peas or carrots, you can also add other vegetables. But depending on the specific vegetable, you should control the sequence and cooking time.
Cooking Method Alternatives
You may like the combination flavor of chicken and mushroom in this Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe, but not that much of the stir-fry cooking method. No problem! Here are two recipes for those who want to avoid oil or smoke in the kitchen, or simply want to try something different. These two authentic Chinese recipes still use chicken and mushroom as main ingredients. One is soup, and one is congee. Compared to stir-fry dishes, soup and congee are good for kids or elders, especially in winter. Now let’s dive into these two simple Chinese food recipes.
Chicken and Mushroom Soup
Chicken breast: 250g
Fresh mushrooms: 300g
Cooking wine: 1 tablespoon
Ginger: 5 slices
Green onion: 1
1. Preparation: boil sliced fresh mushrooms, cut tomatoes into triangular pieces, wash chicken breast and cut to slices, put egg white in a small bowl, and shred ginger.
2. Marination: mix chicken breast with salt, egg white, and dry starch. Boil it in hot water for 1 minute. Remove and let it stand by.
3. Make the soup: heat the pot and stir-fry ginger and green onion. Add mushrooms, chicken broth, and salt. After the soup boils, add chicken slices, tomato, cooking wine, and sesame oil.
Chicken and Mushroom Congee
Chicken breast ½ piece
Green onion 1 piece
Ginger 5 slices
Salt 1 teaspoon
White pepper 1 teaspoon
Startch 1 tablespoon
Vegetable oil 2 tablespoon
- Cook the rice congee: add rice and water (1:3 ratio) to a rice cooker. Press the start button.
- Preparatin: Cut chicken breast to slices. Mix chicken breast with startch, white pepper, salt and vegetable oil. Wash mushroom, ginger and green onion. Cut to slices.
- Add to the congee: when the rice is fully cooked, add mushroom and cook for another 30 minutes. Add chicken, and cook for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle some shredded ginger and green onion.
What To Order At Chinese Restaurants To Keep Healthy
When thinking about Chinese food, many people immediately relate it to high calorie, high fat and high sodium. They believe it’s impossible to eat healthy Chinese food. That’s not true! It really depends on what you order. In fact, Chinese cuisine is not exactly what you can get from the Chinese restaurants here. It is so diversified and different from region to region. A Chinese can spend his or her entire life to explore authentic Chinese food in all parts of China. In all types of Chinese cuisine, people have developed some healthy Chinese food recipes.
Now you are not in China, which probably is the case, and you are a very health-conscious person like me, wondering how to order healthy Chinese food without a week’s worth of calorie cutback, what are some choices and tips? Here, my favorite things to order and suggestions for making your lazy days takeout work for your diet:
- Start With A Soup
According to a research, starting with a broth-based soup helps us eat less throughout the meal. It is very true, at least for me! Cantonese people are especially good with soup. But if you go to a Chinese to-go restaurant, the simplest and healthiest soup you can order is hot and sour or wonton soup. It is around 100 calories without being short on flavor. Plus, it is really filling!
- Choose Healthier Appetizers
You may be tempted to order fried egg rolls, but it’s not the best choice. Order spring vegetable rolls instead. It only contains 80 calories per roll on average. Steamed dumpling is another good choice. But you should steer clear of steamed pork dumplings, which has 500 calories for six pieces. Steamed shrimp or vegetable dumplings are better options.
- Stick To The Basics For Entrees
As I mentioned above, I like Moo Goo Gai Pan because of the varieties of vegetables. Same thing applies when you order out. A good rule of thumb is to eat white or brown rice, not fried rice, and a dish with mixed vegetables if it’s steamed and doesn’t include a sugary brown sauce, and with a protein that isn’t fried or breaded. Try Beef or Chicken with Broccoli, Shrimp with Cashews, Moo Goo Gai Pan, or String Beans with Chicken.
- Run Away From The Sauce
Have you ever wondered what the thick gravy or brown sauce is made from? It may tastes good and consistent wherever you go, but it has a lot of hidden calories. Usually, it is made from sugar, flour, and cornstarch. If you can’t go completely without sauce, just ask for half sauce. That way, you cut the calories to half. Worse comes to the worst, you can request the sauce “on the side”. But remember, it’s best to not get the sauce at all.