What, exactly, are the origins of Mongolian Beef? It’s definitely not Mongolian… In fact, in Mongolia, more often than not, meat is simply boiled and dipped in sauces–not exactly a stir-fry. Of course, everything is served with Bai Jiu, a stiff, white lightning liquor made of sorghum (usually 90 proof or higher!) that is very popular in China. (A friend of mine who visits his Mongolian in-laws almost always ends up drunk and horizontal on the couch after the traditional welcome-home dinner!)
As for the true origins of Mongolian beef, my theory is that someone just forgot to add the orange to a wok full of Orange Beef, and added more sugar instead. Hence, the Mongolian Beef recipe was born. (But, as Judy and the girls would say, that’s just my crazy theory/the ramblings of an old coot!)
Anyway, chalk it up to Chinese-American menu planners and marketers who dubbed the dish “Mongolian Beef.” It’s a close cousin to “Singapore Noodles,” a dish that many actual Singaporeans scratch their heads over––most likely born in the stainless steel kitchen of a Chinese takeout joint! So when we say our Mongolian Beef recipe is “authentic,” we simply mean that it’s very close to what one would expect from a restaurant––only better!
Now that we have that clear, it doesn’t take a genius to know that despite their somewhat misleading names, these dishes can be GOOD! P.F. Chang’s version of this dish is probably the most well-known, but, personally, I think their dish is way too sweet, and it’s definitely too sweet for Judy (which is saying something, since she comes from Shanghai, where sweet-savory dishes are often the main event). In fact, when Judy found out I was going to make a Mongolian beef recipe, the exclamations were strong and immediate: “Too sweet! Too oily! No good! You’re crazy!”
- 8 ounces flank steak, sliced against the grain into ¼-inch thick slices
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, plus ¼ cup
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil, for frying the beef
- ½ teaspoon minced ginger
- 5 dried red chili peppers (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup water or low sodium chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
- 2 scallions, cut into 1-inch long slices on the diagonal
- Marinate the beef for 1 hour in 1 teaspoon oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Dredge the meat in the remaining ¼ cup of cornstarch until lightly coated.
- Heat ⅓ cup oil in the wok over high heat. Just before the oil starts to smoke, spread the flank steak pieces evenly in the wok, and let sear for 1 minute (depending upon the heat of your wok). Turn over and let the other side sear for another 30 seconds. Remove to a sheet pan; tilt it slightly to let the oil drain to one side (lean it on a cookbook or cutting board). The beef should be seared with a crusty coating.
You can find complete recipes of this Mongolian Beef in thewoksoflife.com