“Mongolian Beef” is tasty though not Mongolian
That frequent dish at Chinese restaurants exotically labeled “Mongolian Beef” has little connection to Mongolia, or even to China. Yet it can be delicious and is fairly easy to make. The successful dish and its name are both Chinese-American restaurant creations.
I was drawn into Mongolian Beef by Garrett, a young friend who often cooked with me a few years ago. He wanted to learn how to make it, one of his favorite restaurant dishes, so he could cook it for his family. After some research, I sketched a recipe. We tested beef and chicken versions and preferred the beef. More recently I used it to teach my teenager cooking class how to cut meat and cook stir-fries. It worked for them, too.
The dish is hearty and very tasty. It should be accompanied by unsalted white rice, as it would be in a Chinese restaurant.
“Flat Iron” steak (beef shoulder top blade steak), available at supermarkets, is easy to slice thinly across the grain. It’s a fairly tender yet an economical and tasty cut of beef, convenient for home cooking. Other lean beef can be used, as long as you cut it thinly across the grain.
Hoi sin sauce, a thick sweet Chinese sauce and condiment made from soybeans, is the principal seasoning, supported by soy sauce, hot pepper flakes and sesame oil. (Hoi sin sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil are available at Asian grocery stores, such as Fooks Foods, 2026 So. Milledge Avenue, Athens.)
The recipe serves four to six with rice
“Mongolian Beef” with Sweet Chilies
1 pound beef “flat iron” (shoulder top blade) steak or eye of round
1 teaspoon cornstarch for beef
2 teaspoons canola oil for beef, plus more for frying
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pound broccoli crowns
6 medium-large scallions
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed dry red pepper
Prepare beef by trimming off tough or fatty parts. Cut flatiron steak down middle lengthwise, or cup eye of round into four pieces lengthwise with the grain. Slice across grain 1/4-inch thick. In a bowl, mix meat well with 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 2 teaspoons canola oil, plus sesame oil.
Prepare other ingredients: Cut stems off broccoli. Cut top into evenly sized flowerets, each with a piece of stem. Cut off roots of scallions and any ragged tips of greens. Slice white and green parts 1-1/2 inches long. If scallion bulbs are fat, slice them in half lengthwise. Chop, but do not mince, garlic. Mix sauce ingredients together in small bowl.
Heat wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add about 3 tablespoons oil. Briefly fry garlic, stirring, about 10 seconds. Immediately add beef. Stir and fry, scraping bottom of pan. When meat has mostly changed color, but still shows some pink, remove from wok and return it to its bowl.
Add a tablespoon of oil to wok. Stir and fry broccoli, sprinkled lightly with salt plus 3 tablespoons water for about 2 minutes, until turning dark green. Add a little water if sticking to bottom. Add meat back and heat until bubbling.
Stir sauce mixture in its bowl then add it to wok. Bring to a boil, stirring. Remove from heat and add scallions. Stir several times to heat scallions. Taste and add salt if needed.
Serve with white, unsalted rice.