"Moo Goo Gai Pan” is a Chinese dish of chicken with mushrooms. It was one of the first dishes to become popular in New York’s Chinatown and in Americanized Chinese menus, cited with increasing frequency (with many different spellings) from about 1900.
Lum Fong’s restaurant in Chinatown (220 Canal Street off Baxter Street) popularized many Cantonese dishes, and “Moo Goo Gai Pen” was a Lum Fong’s menu specialty for many years.
Wikipedia: Moo goo gai pan
Moo goo gai pan (蘑菇鸡片; pinyin: mó gū jī piàn) is an Americanized version of the Cantonese dish mo4 gu1 gai1 pin3.
According to Cooks.com and The American Heritage Dictionary, the name comes from the Cantonese names of the ingredients:
moo goo (蘑菇): button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus)
gai (鸡): chicken
pan (片): slices
Moo goo gai pan is usually a simple stir-fried dish consisting of sliced or cubed chicken with white button mushrooms and other vegetables. Popular vegetable additions include snow peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and Chinese cabbage. Moo goo is different from other Chinese take-out chicken dishes in that it eschews the traditional “brown sauce” in favor of a light chicken broth-based sauce.
CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOMS - MOO GOO GAI PAN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 tsp. salt
1 bunch of scallions, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 c. celery, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 container of snow pea pods, strings removed
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
1/2 c. chicken broth
1 tbsp. cornstarch, mixed with 2 tbsp. cold water
1/2 tsp. salt
Combine chicken with wine and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside. Stir fry scallions and celery in oil for 1 minute. Set aside. Stir fry pea pods 2 minutes and set aside. Stir fry mushrooms and water chestnuts 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside. Stir fry the chicken and wine 2 to 3 minutes or until done. Combine chicken and vegetables in a wok. Stir together the broth, cornstarch mixture and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Slowly add to chicken and vegetables in the wok and heat until thick and clear. Serve with rice.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
moo goo gai pan, n.
Forms: 19- moo goo gai pan, 19- moo goo gai pen, 19- mou goo gai peen, 19- mou gou guy pan, 19- muy gou guy pan. [< Chinese regional (prob. Cantonese), lit. ‘mushroom chicken slice’; cf. Chinese (Mandarin) mógu mushroom, Chinese (Cantonese) gi chicken, Chinese (Mandarin) piàn, (Cantonese) pin slice.]
A Chinese dish consisting of stir-fried strips of chicken with mushrooms and assorted vegetables.
1902 N.Y. Herald 14 Dec. V. 11/3 ‘Mou gou guy pan’ loses its mystery as boneless chicken with white mushrooms.
1938 Official Chinatown Guide Bk. 1939 19 Moo goo gai pan, sliced chicken with mushrooms.
6 August 1874, Indiana (PA) Progress, “A Chinese Dinner” (San Francisco), pg. 3, col. 3:
The next dish served up was Moo Goo, a stew composed of bamboo sprouts, ham, Chinese water nuts and mushrooms.
New York’s Chinatown
by Louis J. Beck
New York, NY: Bohemia Publishing Company
BILL OF FARE
Seventy-five Cents per Dish: --
Por Law Gai Pan—(Fried Chicken, Boneless, with Pineapple).
Chow Gai Pin—(Fried Boned Chicken).
14 December 1902, New York (NY) Herald, fifth section, pg. 11, col. 1:
CHINESE CUISINE A CHRISTMAS DINNER ODDITY
REMARKABLE POPULARITY OF THE ORIENTAL RESTAURANT FAD IN NEW YORK
(..) (Col. 3—ed.)
The bill of fare is in English and explanations of Chinese dishes follow the foreign name. For instance, we find that “guy fou yong dun” is simply chicken omelet. “Mou gou guy pan” loses its mystery as boneless chicken with white mushrooms, and “chow sang ha” is more tempting as fried live lobsters; while “you jor bock gob” doesn’t appear quite so formidable as fried squab.
30 August 1903, New York (NY) Tribune, supplement, pg. 2, col. 1:
The Chinese menu is puzzling. It is composed of dishes with such names as “mo gu sue ki,” “chow main,” “geish y main,” “yock a main,” “fin ka nau yok,” “li chee,” si u ah,” “up tread main,” “yang wall,” “muy gu guy pan,” etc. All these dishes are agreeable to the American taste. They range in price from $1.50 or $2 for “mo gu sue ki” (which is made of chicken breasts and mushrooms, principally) to 15 cents for “yock a main,” a composition of noodles, chicken and pork.
1903, Metropolitan Magazine (NY, NY), pg. 431, col. 1:
All the great dishes served in China a thousand years ago...including..."muy gou guy pen” which is boneless chicken with white mushrooms.
The Restaurants of New York
by George S. Chappell
New York, NY: Greenberg, Inc.
I long to make repeated visits and try such combinations as Moo Goo Bar Low Guy Pan, which is boneless chicken with pineapple and lots of other things.
19 January 1930, New York (NY) Times, pg. 71:
In The Nomad for January H. W. Hanemann tells of “The Deeds of a Fearless Gourmand,” his tale being “the account of his victorious campaigns against smorgaasbord, fassulia piaz, prishka, pollo con arroz and moo goo gai pan” in the restaurants of the city of New York.
Tips on Tables:
Being a guide to dining and wining in New York at 265 restaurants suitable to every mood and every purse
by George Ross
New York, NY: Covici Friede Publishers
LUM FONG’S 220 Canal Street (Off Baxter Street)
A few of the specialties from Mr. Fong’s kitchen are moo goo gai pen (sliced breast of chicken with mushrooms and bamboo shoots), Chinese kreplach (Mr. Levy’s contribution), fresh lobster Canton style, real Chinese noodles, egg roll, and roast duck.
Official Chinatown Guide Book 1939
New York, NY: Henin & Company
Favorite Original Chinatown Dishes
Char Shu (Barbecued Pork)
Chun Kin (Egg rolls)
For Opp (Roast Duck)
Bark TOy Guy Pan—Sliced Chicken with Chinese Greens
Boo Loo Guy Pan—Sliced chicken with pineapple
Moo Goo Gai Pan—Sliced chicken with mushrooms
Where to Eat in New York
with drawings by Bill Pause
by Robert W. Dana (of the New York World-Telegram—ed.)
New York, NY: Current Books
They could say “Moo goo gai pan” as easily as “ham and eggs,” and tell you its ingredients are breast of chicken with mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
(This is from Lum Fong, 150 West 52nd and also 220 Canal Street—ed.)
...moo goo gai pan, the fairly well known dish of chicken and Chinese vegetables…
March 1957, Gourmet pg. 64, col. 2:
Q. I want to give a dinner party, Chinese style, and I’d like the recipe for moo goo gai pen, my favorite Chinese dish.
MRS. RUTH TROIANI
POUND RIDGE, NEW YORK
A. Chacun a son moo goo, say we!
Moo Goo Gai Pen
In a heavy skillet heat 3 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a dash of pepper. Add 2 cups cooked chicken, cut in julienne strips, 1/2 cup each of celery, water chestnuts, and cooked mushrooms, all finely sliced, 1/2 cup each of bok choy hearts and bamboo shoots, both cut into 1-inch pieces, 1 teaspoon finely minced ginger root, and 1 cup chicken broth. Cover the pan tightly and cook the mixture over moderate heat for 5 minutes.
Stir 2 tablespoons cornstarch to a paste with 2 teaspoons soy sauce and 1/4 cup water, and stir the paste into the vegetable-chicken mixture. Add 1 cup tender young snow-pea pods, stringed. Cover the pan tightly and cook the moo goo gai pen for another minute or two. Serve it with rice.
August 1970, Gourmet, pg. 58, col. 1:
Q. Please give me a recipe for moo goo gai pan.
WILLIAM S. CARPENTER
A. Get out your wok and follow the directions below.
Moo Goo Gai Pan
(Chinese Chicken with Mushrooms)
Skin and bone 1 chicken breast and cut the meat into cubes. Combine 2 teaspoons cornstarch with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and dredge the chicken cubes in this mixture until they are evenly coated. In a wok or skillet stir-fry 2 or 3 slices of gingerroot and 1 garlic clove, all minced, in 2 tablespoons oil for 1 minute. Add the chicken cubes and stir-fry them for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Drain the liquid from a 4-ounce can of button mushrooms, reserving 1/4 cup, add the mushrooms to the chicken, and heat them through. Blend 1 tablespoon cornstarch into the reserved mushroom liquid and stir the paste into the sauce until it is thickened. If desired, 10 to 12 snow peas, 4 water chestnuts, sliced, and 1 tablespoon oil may be added with the chicken. Serve the dish at once. Serves 4.
My egyptian neighbor--the Dr. has been looking for this recepie--he says he is going to marry a Chinise woman--he loves chicken fried rice, also--me I’m still trying to work on my steamed dumplings and sushi.i found the dumpling-pork recipie is a good way to use up the restr of the left over pork roast--I put it through my grinder--now if I can just get my dumplings to seal properly--I just bought another steamer--I lost a lot in our fire of 2006--all my cookbooks--most all of my kitchen--due to smoke damage.(2/3 of my entire household)
Thank you for these recipies.