Moo Goo Gai Pan – Life Above the Cafe

Moo Goo Gai Pan

A childhood favorite for this year of the snake woman!
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Moo Goo Gai Pan

Moo Goo Gai Pan
May 21, 2020




20 mins.

20 mins.


Growing up, eating out didn’t happen very often. We didn’t live close to restaurants, so my mom meal planned and most nights cooked or on the weekends one of my parents would grill out.

On Fridays we usually ate Mexican food, but every once in a while, my parents would take us out for Chinese food at the Happy Buddha restaurant. I loved that place and their Moo Goo Gai Pan.

The hot soup and unique plates of food that they served were way better than the canned Chop Suey that my mom sometimes made. I’m not sure if you can still buy canned Chinese food at the local grocery store and just warm it up, but back in the 80’s it was real torture food for kids.

As creatures of habit, we always ordered the same meals and soups. I didn’t taste hot and sour soup until I was grown because why would you when there’s a meat treasure inside of the wontons in Wonton Soup? Delicious Moo Goo Gai Pan was always on my plate. Now, I’m more of a Chicken with Mixed Vegetables kind of gal, but I prefer it to be swimming in a lighter brown sauce that’s reminiscent of the Moo Goo Gai Pan sauce.

This recipe is easy to adapt and make at home. It’s loaded with chicken, vegetables, and a flavorful sauce. I serve it over steamed rice, that I make in my pressure cooker, just like I ordered it as a kid, but if you love fried rice then definitely swap out the rices.

When I can’t find snow peas, I substitute zucchini or broccoli because in my opinion it screams for a green vegetable. I love bamboo and water chestnuts in Moo Goo Gai Pan, but not having them in the pantry doesn’t stop me from making this meal as you can tell from the photos.

A helpful hint for cutting the boneless, skinless chicken breasts is to place them in the freezer for 30-45 minutes or until they firm up a bit. You don’t want to freeze them, but the tiny bit of firmness makes it much easier to slice thin pieces of chicken. Also, slice the meat against the grain of the chicken into long thin strips and then cut those piece in half to make thin pieces that cook quickly.

Chinese food at home that’s not from a can, in my opinion, is an excellent dinner option and I hope that you’ll try this recipe today and leave a comment below. For daily updates, follow @lifeabovethecafe on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest using the social media icons found on this page.


Chicken and Vegetables:

  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. of vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, sliced thin on a diagonal
  • 1 large zucchini or 2 medium, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 small package of button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • optional – 1 to 2 handfuls of snow peas
  • optional – 1 can of bamboo shoots, drained
  • optional – 1 can of sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • optional – 1 can of baby corn, drained

For the sauce:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups of chicken stock (or 1 bouillon cube and water)
  • 1 to 1 & 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (or omit if preferred)
  • 2 Tbsp. of soy sauce (low sodium or coconut aminos are fine)
  • 1 tsp. of garlic powder (see note at bottom for using minced garlic)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. of ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp. of black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. of corn starch (I prefer a thinner sauce)



Wash and dry all of the vegetables and slice them in thin pieces.  I slice the carrots 1/8 to 1/4 inch thin on a diagonal.  The zucchini and mushrooms are sliced to 1/4 inch thickness and I dice the onions into bite sized pieces.  If using snow peas, remove the vein that runs along the edge.

Have all ingredients ready to add to the hot pan.  You will need to stir constantly. I steam my carrot slices and zucchini slices in a bowl with a few tablespoons of water for 3 to 4 minutes or until slightly softened.  Drain them before adding to the stir fry.

Slice the chicken into long thin pieces.

If using the canned bamboo shoots and water chestnuts drain and set aside.

Mix the sauce ingredients up in a measuring cup and set aside.

To Cook:

Heat 1/2 to 1 Tbsp. of oil over high in a large nonstick skillet or wok.  Add the chicken and stir fry until cooked through and slightly browned crispy bits form on the exterior, about 4 minutes.  Remove chicken from the pan.

Heat 1 Tbsp. and add the mushroom slices.  Stir fry until the mushrooms shrink in size and start to brown.  Add the cooked mushrooms to the bowl of chicken.

Heat 1/2 to 1 Tbsp. of oil and add the carrots, zucchini, and onions, and if using, the snow peas.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until they are tender but not mushy.

If using bamboo shoots and water chestnuts add them and cook for 1 minute or until warmed.

Add the chicken and mushrooms back to the pan, stir the sauce well to ensure that the cornstarch isn’t clumped up, and pour it over the chicken/vegetable mixture.  Allow the sauce to come up to a boil to thicken.  Turn down the heat and cook for 1 – 2 minutes or until the sauce is the consistency that you prefer.

Serve over steamed, fried rice, or with cauliflower rice for a grain free meal.

Notes – Substitute any vegetables that I have suggested for your favorites or whatever that you can purchase.  I would normally use sugar snap peas, but I couldn’t purchase them at the time that I shopped so I subbed zucchini, but broccoli would be an excellent replacement or addition.

If you prefer to use fresh garlic, mince 2 to 3 cloves of garlic and add them to the pan when you add the carrots, zucchini and onions.  Don’t add garlic powder to the sauce since the fresh garlic will add plenty of flavor.

Additional Photos:

Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan

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