Despite its name, Mongolian beef did not originate in Mongolia. It is a Chinese-American dish adapted from the beef component of Mongolian barbecue. Curiously enough, Mongolian barbecue is not Mongolian nor is barbecuing involved in its cooking. The history of Mongolian beef is as curious as it is interesting.
All through the 70’s and the 80’s, Mongolian barbecue joints sprouted and thrived. In Taiwan where the concept originated, Mongolian barbecue has been around since the 50’s, a brainchild of comedian and restauranteur Wu Zhao-nan. Different kinds of meat, vegetables and sauces were laid out, diner chose which he liked. The diner’s choices were stir fried and served in a bowl.
Mongolian beef is a stand-alone dish derived from the Mongolian barbecue. Slices of beef are stir fried with vegetables then tossed with a thick brown sauce which may or may not be spicy.
My Mongolian beef barbecue is a little spicy. I used gochujang, the Korean chili paste. You can use Sriracha or whatever chili sauce suits your taste better.
Know, however, that your choice of chili sauce will affect the flavor of the cooked dish. Not that one kind of chili sauce will yield a more delicious version — it’s all a matter of what chili sauce YOU like best. After all, it is YOU who will eat the Mongolian beef so better use a chili sauce that you already like.
Scallions often accompany the meat in Mongolian beef barbecue but I also added slices of fresh button mushrooms and julienned carrot for more variety in color and texture.
Mongolian Beef Barbecue
- 300 grams beef sirloin, flank steak, eye round, top round and bottom round are great choices, thinly sliced across the grain
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons tapioca or corn or potato starch
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 button mushrooms thinly sliced
- 1 small handful julienned carrot
- 1 small handful scallions cut into two-inch lengths
- toasted sesame seeds to garnish
- Place the beef in a bowl. Add the salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the starch and mix to coat every sliced of beef.
- In a wok or frying pan, heat the cooking oil to smoking point.
- Spread the beef in the hot oil. Sprinkle in the minced garlic. Cook the beef until the undersides are browned then flip them over to brown the opposite side.
- Pour in the soy sauce and chili sauce. Sprinkle in the sugar. Toss a few times.
- Add the mushroom slices, carrot and scallions. Stir fry for another half a minute.
- Serve the Mongolian beef barbecue over rice sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
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