“What is MUGŪ?”
With a name like that, one just has to ask. In fact, this very question is the primary hashtag of this mysterious emerging brand. But the answer is more than a mouthful, its layers as numerous as the mushroom that gave the company its name and as complexly nuanced as the history of the Chinese culinary tradition that inspired it.
From an innovation standpoint, it’s a wellness- and tech-driven restaurant concept. Looking at it from a culinary point of view, it’s vegetable-forward, fresh cuisine made with cutting-edge automated precision. From a social perspective, it’s the starting line of a true American success story—one of rising above humble immigrant roots, multicultural collaboration, and believing in what’s better—for our health, community and environment.
And from where Mugū founder Mike Wang stands—tall, rakish and buzzing with purpose—it’s an idea worth risking everything for. His presence is that of a man with conviction.
“As a kid who grew up in a take-out, I was frustrated by the ‘cheat meal’ and stereotypical stigmas Chinese food suffered from; the lack of consistency I experienced while in the military and as a student at Emory; and the fact that it’s a dying breed with practices that haven’t changed,” he says. “And as a practicing cardiologist, I was frustrated with patients that didn’t have knowledge of how to eat healthily. So I decided to do something about it.”
Partnering with MIT engineers, Cornell analysts, dietary firms, and two restaurant industry professionals revered beyond their flagships in Massapequa—his mom Jen Li of Jen’s Chinese and SeaQua Deli’s Pat Spates—Wang has created a way to make Chinese take-out scientifically healthier, with 70% less oil, less salt, and natural flavors that pack a wallop of a punch without the use of heavy sauces. Even more amazingly, he’s done it with proprietary, customized automation technology that leans on science to create the perfect dish every. Single. Time.
With his patented process, crisp vegetables, cut and packed daily, stay vibrant and crunchy when cooked by his “robot chef.” Ingredients like real ginger, cloves of toasted garlic, and truffle salt bring out the natural flavors of the vegetables in the vegan-friendly, gluten-free Farm Fresh Sautee. High quality proteins like succulent jumbo shrimp, tender chicken and flank steak emerge as juicy in three minutes as an hour in a sous vide. Fresh, eggy lo mein noodles are tossed with as much oil as an air fryer, leaving not a trace of grease, but rather a satisfying toothsomeness as its lingering shadow.
Of course, you can’t have true Chinese comfort without good rice. Mugū’s “fried” rice isn’t actually fried at all; instead, it’s sauteed with unexpected vegetables like Shanghai bok choy and blistered cherry tomatoes. And the Superfood bowl cleverly disguises pulses like beans and lentils among the deep purple hues of the forbidden rice that forms the base, along with mixed whole grains for a dish that offers more protein than carbs.
All of these are available in the hybrid kitchen of Jen’s Chinese, packaged in eco-conscious, biodegradable containers. Prep packs are recycled after use and disposable utensils decompose harmlessly.
“Staying environmentally friendly, using quality sustainable sources … it’s all intentional,” says Wang. “It all goes back to how we can do better by and for one another.”
Along those lines, this mantra is the inspiration for their in-development recipes: a baked-not-fried “Jeneral” Tso’s with minimal sugar, baked king oyster mushroom egg rolls, “KungWow” chicken, and teas like genuine Pu’er enriched by fresh-squeezed juices and herbs.
So let’s try this again: What is MUGŪ? More than likely, a born-on-Long-Island game-changer. It’s food-driven tech in a new world of tech-driven food (Impossible, anyone?). But most importantly, it’s fresh, flavorful, guilt-free, new-wave Chinese that shatters stereotypes and challenges us to do and eat “better.”
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