Mongolian Beef, the most traditional American Christmas food I could think of.
As Christmas passed this previous week I looked to stepping my game up by trying to prepare some legitimate traditional American-Christmas food. I know what some of you are thinking “Yule Logs? Chestnuts? A Roast?” To that I have to scoff. Let’s be real with one another for a moment. Chinese food has become the traditional American meal of choice, so this year I decided to learn about and execute a Mongolian Beef that even Saint Nick would appreciate. The real hero of this dish is really that you learn all about cornstarch and how important it is to Chinese food (American). Once you do this once it’ll kind of give you a whole new understanding/appreciation for cornstarch and open up new avenues in your cooking techniques.
In all honesty it should be called Cornstarch Beef, not Mongolian, at least that way it would be more of a cooking technique rather than a flavor because once you get the method down you can add whatever flavor into it that you want to twist it into a new dish. Want orange beef? add some orange flavor. Want sweet and sour beef? Add sweet and sour sauce. You get it.
Before I get people up in arms at me yelling “Derp, that’s not REAL Chinese food”, yes I’m aware its Americanized Chinese food, can we just move on from this argument for a minute to just eat some shit that tastes good on Christmas?
Lets get to it.
- 1 Pound Beef (Flank Steak Ideally)
- Canola Oil (Enough for Frying + 2 Teaspoons)
- 1/2 Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce (+2 Teaspoons separately)
- 1 Cup Cornstarch (+2 Tablespoons separately and another 2 Tablespoons separately, 4 total)
- 1 Teaspoon Ginger
- 1 Tablespoon Red Chili Pepper Flakes (Remove if you want no spiciness at all)
- 4 Garlic Cloves
- 1/2 Cup Chicken Stock/Water
- 4 or 5 Chopped Scallions, Greens Only
- 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar or Splenda
- (Optional) Pickled Chili Peppers
I should note that I find the vast majority of recipes I’ve seen on the internet overwhelmingly sweet, this version mellows that sweetness out a bit. If at the end of the process you find yourself wanting a tad bit more sweetness, if the saltiness is overwhelming, you can add another 1-2 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar (or Splenda). I suggest waiting until you taste it to commit to adding more. You can always sweeten, but you can’t un-sweeten.
You can use regular soy-sauce but people have complained that its a tad bit salty if you use the standard, I highly recommend using the low-sodium to cut it down a tad.
First up get your flank steak out and slice it into some nice little morsels of beef. You’re going to want to make a slurry out of 2 teaspoons oil, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons cornstarch. and drop the slices into it. Work the meat really well and get it nice and coated, let it rest for about an hour. This step isn’t completely mandatory, it just elevates things. If you remember one of my first posts on this blog ever about velveting meat, its similar.
Essentially what we are going to do is fry up the beef with a starch coating first, then make a sauce, and cook the starched beef in that sauce. You’ll want to have all your sauce components broken up and ready to go before starting so set a nice cooking station up get to it.
The dredging station. Get a bowl and put a cup of cornstarch into it, you will probably have leftovers but its better to have extra and not need it. You’re just going to pick up each slice, dip it in starch and coat it, then set aside, and repeat. Once you have a pile to fill up a pan full then go ahead.
You’ll want enough oil to go up your pot about a good half-inch minimum.
You’ll want to sear the meat for about 1 minute, then flip over and let it sear for another minute or so. Use a slotted spoon to pull it out.
The meat should have a nice semi-crispy exterior. Set it aside and start making your sauce. Drain the oil from the pot you were using but leave a light coating at the bottom. Just like when making taré for Ramen, using the fond at the bottom of the pan helps add flavor to the sauce.
Toss in your garlic, ginger, peppers (if using them), and give them a quick sear. 15-30 seconds is fine but use a spatula to scrape up any beef residue from the frying process (fond)
Go ahead and pour the soy sauce + stock (or water) + pepper flakes into the mixture, give it a nice stir and let the sauce simmer for a good 2-3 minutes.
While this is going on go grab 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons of water, blend to make a milky white mixture that isn’t chunky. This is the magic moment that kind of makes you go “oh, that’s how they do it.” Pour the mixture into the sauce and it should instantly turn into a thick sauce.
Add your beef into this newly created sauce, add the chopped scallions, give it a quick stir, and you’re done. Feel free to serve
Serve as you see fit, most people will serve it with steamed rice but feel free to do you. Serve it with some ginger bread cookies for all I care, either way enjoy your beef, its damn good and will open up all sorts of new avenues of cornstarch glory.