Mongolian Beef is a beloved dish that has captured the hearts and taste buds of many. Its luscious, tender meat coated in a simple yet flavorful, slightly sticky sauce makes it a culinary delight. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of Mongolian Beef, its key ingredients, and the techniques that ensure your homemade version is just as delectable as the one from your favorite Chinese restaurant.
What Is Mongolian Beef?
Despite its name, Mongolian Beef isn’t actually from Mongolia. It’s a Chinese-American stir-fry dish that likely got its name from marketing creativity. Traditional Mongolian cuisine primarily involves steaming, boiling, or stewing meats, which is quite distinct from the stir-frying method used in this dish. Its exact origin remains a bit murky, with some attributing it to Chinese American restaurants or even Taiwan.
Choosing the Right Cut of Beef
To achieve that melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, you don’t need an expensive cut of beef like fillet or New York strip. Value cuts like flank steak or sirloin work just as well for Mongolian Beef. Leaner cuts are ideal for stir-frying since they cook quickly. The key to tender beef is a three-part process: slicing it thinly against the grain, marinating it with Chinese tenderizers (a mix of soy sauce, cornstarch, a pinch of baking soda, and Chinese wine), and quickly searing it in hot oil.
Ingredients for Mongolian Beef
Here are the primary ingredients you’ll need:
For the Stir-Fry:
- Beef (flank steak or similar lean cuts)
- Red onion
- Green onion or scallion
- Dried red chilies (optional for heat)
For the Marinade:
- Soy sauce (or tamari sauce)
- Chinese Shaoxing wine (optional)
- Baking soda
For the Sauce:
- Soy sauce (or tamari sauce)
- Chicken stock
- Chinese Shaoxing wine (optional)
- Brown sugar (or a sugar substitute for keto-friendly)
- Cornstarch mixed with water (for thickening)
- Slice the beef thinly against the grain at an angle and marinate it with the ingredients mentioned.
- Chop the onions, green onions, garlic, ginger, and dried red chilies (if using).
- Prepare the sauce by mixing soy sauce, wine, brown sugar, and stock. Separately, combine cornstarch with water.
- Heat a wok or large pan over high heat, add oil, and quickly sear the marinated beef for about 3-4 minutes per side. Avoid overcrowding the pan to prevent steaming.
- Remove the beef and set it aside.
- Add more oil and stir-fry the onions, white portions of green onions, garlic, ginger, and dried red chilies.
- Pour in the sauce, cook for a minute or two, and add the cornstarch-water mixture to thicken the sauce.
- Return the beef to the pan, coat it with the sauce, and finish with the green portions of green onions.
Alternative Cooking Methods
Crock Pot: Marinate the meat and place it in the crock pot with sauce, onions, ginger, garlic, and red chilies. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours. Garnish with green onions before serving.
Instant Pot: Sauté the marinated beef, add the sauce, and pressure cook on High for 10 minutes. Allow for a natural release before garnishing with green onions.
What to Serve with Mongolian Beef
Mongolian Beef pairs perfectly with various side dishes like plain rice, fried rice, chow mein, or fried noodles. Stir-fried vegetables such as broccoli, snow peas, or bok choy make excellent additions to the meal. If you’re watching your carb intake, cauliflower rice is a great alternative.
Customization and Alternatives
Feel free to customize your Mongolian Beef by adding stir-fry vegetables like broccoli or snow peas. You can also explore alternatives to soy sauce, such as coconut aminos or tamari sauce, for dietary preferences.
Mongolian Beef makes fantastic leftovers. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days or freeze it for up to two months. It’s an excellent option for meal prep.
In conclusion, Mongolian Beef is a dish that brings together a harmonious blend of flavors and techniques. Despite its name’s uncertain origin, it remains a beloved staple in Chinese-American cuisine. With the right cut of beef, proper slicing, marinating, and stir-frying techniques, you can recreate this restaurant favorite in your own kitchen. Whether you choose the stovetop, slow cooker, or Instant Pot method, Mongolian Beef promises a culinary journey that’s as rewarding as it is delicious. So, get woking and savor the magic of tender, flavorful beef coated in that irresistible sauce!
- What is the origin of the name “Mongolian Beef,” and is it actually from Mongolia?
Answer: The name “Mongolian Beef” likely originated from Chinese-American restaurants and isn’t connected to traditional Mongolian cuisine, which primarily involves different cooking methods.
- Why is it important to cut the beef thinly and against the grain for Mongolian Beef?
Answer:Slicing the beef thinly against the grain ensures tenderness, as cutting with the grain would result in tough and chewy meat.
- What are the key ingredients for marinating the beef in Mongolian Beef?
Answer:The beef is typically marinated with soy sauce, Chinese wine (optional), cornstarch, a pinch of baking soda, and sometimes other seasonings.
- What alternatives are suggested for soy sauce in the recipe?
Answer: If you prefer alternatives to soy sauce, you can use coconut aminos or tamari sauce, both of which are gluten-free and lower in sodium.
- Can you explain the process of “velveting” the meat?
Answer: Velveting involves marinating the meat in a mixture of soy sauce, cornstarch, a pinch of baking soda, and Chinese wine to tenderize it before cooking.
- Why is it essential to cook the beef quickly in hot oil when stir-frying?
Answer: Quick searing in hot oil ensures that the beef cooks fast, preventing it from becoming tough and resulting in tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat.
- How can you make Mongolian Beef keto-friendly?
Answer:To make Mongolian Beef keto-friendly, replace brown sugar with a sugar substitute that has a 1:1 sugar ratio.
- What are some suitable side dishes to serve with Mongolian Beef?
Answer:Common side dishes include plain rice, fried rice, chow mein, fried noodles, or stir-fried vegetables like broccoli or snow peas.
- Can Mongolian Beef be prepared in a slow cooker, and what is the process?
Answer: Yes, you can make Mongolian Beef in a slow cooker by marinating the meat, adding it to the crock pot with sauce and other ingredients, and cooking on high for a few hours until tender.
- What are some tips for storing leftovers of Mongolian Beef?
Answer: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days or frozen for up to two months, making it a great option for meal prep.