With the opening of their second store in Commack, Mogu Modern Chinese is one step closer to their goal of transforming the Chinese food landscape on Long Island. Here, a streamlined menu of Chinese-American classics is prepared without woks or fryolators, and when the fat-free spring rolls are stuffed with mushroom and leeks and served with sriracha aioli, when the “popcorn” wontons are crisped and browned in an air fryer, when The “Kung Wow” chicken lacks any hint of Glop – they’re all recognizable as good old-fashioned Chinese take-out.
As authentic, regional Chinese cuisine spreads across Nassau and Suffolk, Mogu founder Mike Wang noted that traditional Chinese takeaways are under threat. Among the challenges they face are the physical challenge of cooking everything in a heavy wok in scorching hot oil and, most importantly, a severe labor shortage. “Cooking in a wok requires tremendous skill,” he explained when Farmingdale’s first mogu opened in 2020. “With fewer people coming here from China and very few children of Chinese immigrants interested in it, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find people who know how to cook in this way.”
Wang was born in China but grew up at his parents’ Chinese takeaway restaurant, Jen’s, first on Conklin Street in Farmingdale and then on Hicksville Road in Massapequa, where it still thrives. He realized his parents’ dream by earning his doctorate from an Ivy League university, but felt drawn back into their business. Taking over the restaurant wasn’t an option – despite all his degrees, he lacked the skills – but it pained him that “when they retire, their legacy will go away”.
And so, in collaboration with his mother Jen Li and MIT engineers, Wang developed an “Automatic Wok Cooking Platform” (SAM: “Smart Automatic Master Chef”), whose blade mimics the inversion of an expertly handled wok and whose superheated surface allows the ingredients to be cooked feel cooking. Each dish has its own algorithm and “cooks” just need to add the required ingredients (which are pre-cut and portioned at a different mogu facility) and SAM does the rest.
Since Mogu opened in Farmingdale, Wang, Li and their partners Pat Spates (co-owners of SeaQua Deli in Massapequa, St. James and Patchogue) and Ben LoManto (of Vespa Italian Chophouse in Northport and Vespa Italian Kitchen & Bar and Harleys American) . Cricket in Farmingdale) have planned their next move. During the worst of the pandemic, the Route 110 location — right in the middle of many businesses whose employees are working from home — generated fewer lunch crowds than expected. But third-party services delivered takeaway food far and wide. “We’ve had a lot of customers coming to us all the way from Commack,” Wang said. Data from third-party delivery services confirmed that Commack could use its own mogu.
The Commack Store has a larger kitchen and smaller seating area than Farmingdale, but decor is the same cheerful mix of warm woods and leafy greens. Some of the dishes added to the original menu are dumplings (pork, vegetables, and spicy “Impossible” beef), roasted Brussels sprouts, mei fun noodles (thin rice) with your choice of protein (or Singapore-style with Currysauce). ) and cold sesame noodles.
The Commack Store has also introduced a new feature: a self-service kiosk, which is an alternative to ordering at the counter. Wang is working on an app as well as a full self-service store. The next generation of SAM (biplane!) is also in the works. The Mogu team plans to open locations in Hauppauge (June), Woodbury (October) and Melville (2023). They also run a mogu with an abbreviated menu at the UBS Arena in Elmont.
Does Wang foresee a day when Mogu is fully automated? No chance. “In the end, it’s all about a balance between technology and food,” he said. “You don’t want to lose the soul to the machine, you want to use the machine to bring out the soul of the food.”
Mogu Modern Chinese Kitchen is located at 6228 Jericho Tpke., Commack; 631-257-3832, moguchinese.com