Last night, Chinese communities around the world welcomed the Year of the Dragon with festive traditions that were meant to attract good health and prosperity, as well as closer family ties, peace, and harmony in the home. In honor of the Lunar New Year, I made Mongolian Beef, one of the more popular dishes found in Chinese-American restaurants. It is a simple beef dish typically made with flank steak or tenderloin and stir-fried with scallions in a brown sauce containing many ingredients typically found in Chinese cuisine – oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and Chinese cooking wine, also knows as Shao Xing. The name, Mongolian Beef, is misleading because none of the ingredients or the method of preparation are drawn from traditional Mongolian cuisine. Chalk it up to some clever marketing ploy to name this dish in a way that conjures up a “more exotic” type of food.
I really liked this basic recipe because it isn’t as salty as other Chinese brown sauces I’ve tasted. I kept it simple, only adding scallions and shiitake mushrooms to the slices of flank steak. Some Chinese recipes call for both light and dark soy sauces, but I only have low-sodium soy sauce and it worked well. Someday, I might invest in the dark soy sauce, which is not only darker, but also slightly thicker due to prolonged aging and the addition of caramel or, sometimes, molasses. I imagine that tofu would also work beautifully since it would absorb all the tasty brown sauce. I don’t particularly care for spicy food, so I did not add any red pepper flakes or chile paste.
Yields 4 servings
1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain
3 tablespoons peanut oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
5 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cut into strips
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons Shao Xing (Chinese cooking wine) or sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
white pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes or chile paste like sambal oelek (optional)
Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, and add the beef. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet or a wok over high heat. Stir fry the beef in batches until the outside is brown, but the inside is still pink. Remove from pan and set aside.
In the same skillet, add the remaining oil. Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry until aromatic. Return the beef to the pan and sauté until the beef is cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the green onions and mushrooms, and stir to combine.
Serve with steamed rice.