The one thing that my younger sister always wants me to make when she comes to town is Mongolian Beef. This was one of our Dad’s wok dishes that he continued to make for over 30 years and one of his most successful. I haven’t used a recipe for this dish in years but when I went online to see what was out there it was an eye-opening and depressing journey. Many of the recipes are just garbage, they are essentially soy sauce and brown sugar sauces with the beef slices being buried in corn starch and deep-fried, which on some level is probably not worse than what some of the truly terrifying Chinese hole-in-the-wall take out places here in New York would serve you. However, that stuff is masquerading as the Mongolian Beef I know like a McDonald’s burger is masquerading as real food. The recipe below I have used for years and in no way would I ever claim it a traditional one but it has yielded me the best dish and is the result of lots of tinkering. The meat always comes out tender, the scallions crispy and the sauce umami. Though I usually use brown/wild rice in my dishes this is one that I really prefer to serve with nice fluffy white rice. Every bite of this dish reminds me of just how good food could taste during my childhood.
1 lb grass-fed and finished flank steak (any tender cut of meat will do as long as you can slice it thin)
2 bunches of scallions
4 garlic cloves
1 ½ tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
1 2-inch piece of ginger root
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoon Shao Xing wine
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup hoisin sauce
4 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar (if you don’t have this, skip it entirely and use a little more hoisin sauce, lots of recipes sub in brown sugar which is way too sweet and will turn this dish sticky and cloying.)
½ cup water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Peanut/safflower/sunflower oil for cooking
1 ½ cups long grain white rice
Cut the flank steak against the grain in very thin slices. The thinner the better. In a bowl add the Shao Xing wine and 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch and mix until blended. Add the sliced beef coating the meat evenly, set aside. The beef will ‘bleed out’ into the marinade, don’t worry, you are just going to dump this out. Start the rice. Mince both the garlic and the ginger root and set aside. Slice the scallions on a diagonal in large pieces, I find that if the pieces are too small they lose the texture that they give to the dish.
Drain the Shao Xing mixture from the beef and dust the beef with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. The juice from the beef will dissolve it quickly.
In a separate bowl mix the soy, hoisin, water and cane sugar until well blended set aside. In a wok or pan heat ½ cup of cooking oil on a medium/high heat. Once the oil is hot add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes until aromatic, try to not let the garlic fry completely, this burnt garlic taste can overwhelm the dish. Add the beef to the wok, leaving behind in the bowl the cornstarch slurry. Drizzle the meat with the sesame oil and cook the meat through, about 4-6 minutes. Remove the meat from the wok. Put the wok back on the flame and add the soy, hoisin, water and sugar mixture. Allow the sauce to reach a boil and boil for one minute. Add the meat back in and continue to boil. After a few minutes the sauce will start to thicken. I don’t like mine too thick, so I pull it off the heat as soon as I see the thicker bubbles, but if you want your sauce thicker just leave it on. Once the sauce is at the desired thickness, turn off the heat and add the sliced scallions and serve over rice. Viola! Mongolian Beef.