If you think Mongolian beef is Mongolian cuisine, think again.
You won’t find Mongolian beef in Mongolia. The locals will be dumbfounded and not know what you mean.
But Mongolian beef goes beyond that.
There is an array of world cuisine that bears the name of a country since people want to associate the flavor and cooking style with the country of origin.
Chefs and food writers have a mix of opinions on the origin of the name Mongolian beef. Mongolia is a remote region. Many American have the faintest idea of how Mongolian cuisine tastes like. The chefs thought that a dish with an exotic name would sell well in the Chinese restaurant. Once the name was created, it stuck with it forever until today.
As a result, there isn’t any authentic method to prepare the Mongolian beef. So instead of searching for the original recipe, I have gone through a series of tests searching for the best way to bring out the flavor and texture of this American Chinese dish.
The following sections explain how to prepare Mongolian beef in detail, and the rationale behind each step.
Six simple steps to cook the perfect Mongolian beef
1. Use the right cut of beef
Mongolian beef is prepared with a quick stir-frying process. Therefore, suitable cuts of beef should be tender. Certainly, it should also be without too much fat, and no bone attached. You can use tender beef like tenderloin or sirloin steak for the best result. Use flank steak or chuck and flank as the cheaper alternatives. Use skirt steak if you prefer lean meat for health reasons.
- Cut the beef into very thin slices. Since this is a very quick cooking process. The meat will contract and become thicker when you cook them.
- Since it is easy to slice partially frozen beef, I normally froze the beef the night before, and let it defrost at room temperature the next morning. Once the beef is soft enough for cutting, slice it immediately, and you will have the thinnest pieces of beef possible.
2. Marinate the beef for better flavor
It is common to marinate the beef with soy sauce, cornstarch, and occasionally wine. Some recipes include eggs to make the beef taste velvety.
I prefer to marinate the beef with some oil, cornstarch, and light soy sauce. The gravy of Mongolian beef will provide other flavors to the beef eventually.
Marinating the beef for twenty minutes should be sufficient as the slices of beef are thin and small.
3. Coat the beef with the dry coating mix
The method to prep beef according to most of the recipes is to mix the beef with cornstarch, and then deep-fried.
My method is to use a combination of three items to coat the beef before deep-frying. This is also my formula to coat the chicken in the General Tso’s chicken recipe. The usage of each of these ingredients is as follows:
- Normal wheat flour. It provides the volume for the coating, so it is enough to form a thin layer to protect the beef from the direct heat of the hot oil, hence will result in the beef that is most.
- Cornstarch. Increase the crispiness of the coating.
- Salt. Important to improve the flavor.
This combination is amazing because it is crunchy and not hard like the biscuit, even after half an hour after deep-frying. The magical balance of the four simple ingredients in the flour mix is perfectly suitable for Mongolian beef. It is used in this formula and proudly to say it turns out better than many similar dry coatings from cookbooks and chefs.
4. Deep-fry the beef over high heat
Cooks in the modern kitchen use a dedicated deep-fryer for this purpose. You can also deep-fry it in a wok or large skillet over high heat if you are cooking in a small western kitchen.
Peanut oil or other vegetable oil with high smoke points is my favorite oil for deep-frying. Olive oil is not suitable because it has a relatively low smoke point.
Deep-fried the beef for two minutes at 190°c, remove and drain on paper towels.
5. Make the best Mongolian beef sauce
I use the following ingredients for Mongolian beef gravy.
Soy sauce. I am using Chiese light and dark soy sauce in my recipe. Chinese light soy sauce tends to be salty, while the Chinese dark soy sauce has a caramelized flavor. Japanese soy sauce and the Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kicap manis) are not suitable for this recipe.
Sugar. The amount of sugar in Mongolian beef is higher than in many other authentic Chinese dishes. In general, most American Chinese foods are sweeter than their counterpart in Asia. The larger quantity of sugar helps to caramelize and thicken the sauce, which means less cornstarch slurry is required for thickening,
Besides soy sauce and sugar, I also include Shaoxing wine, which is optional.
6. Mix the fried beef with the sauce to serve
The final step is to combine the spicy sauce and the beef. Flip and mix for ten seconds.
Since I want to keep the beef crispy, I do not stir-fry it with the gravy for a long time. Instead, I only flash fry the (actually is to mix in the gravy) for just ten seconds.
One common mistake in making this dish is adding too much cornstarch slurry. It turns the gravy into a gooey mass. I do not use cornstarch to thicken the gravy in this recipe. Once the gravy is cooked down, it is already thick enough to cling to the beef to form a shiny sheen.
Note: You can add red bell pepper or green beans at the last stage of cooking if you prefer to have some vegetables in this dish. Some cooks like to sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds before serving.
Tips for cooking the best Mongolian beef
Here are my final thought and summary before I conclude this post on how to dish out the toothsome Mongolian beef.
- Use the tender cut of the beef.
- Marinate to get let the soy sauce and cornstarch absorb.
- The gravy should be thick enough to cling to the surface.
- Do not use too much sugar in the recipe. I find that most of the recipes tend to be too sweet. I have reduced the amount in my recipe accordingly.
- Use plenty of scallions. Scallions will never be too much for Mongolian beef!
- Be prudent when you add the cornstarch slurry. Since the sauce contains sugar and dark soy sauce which acts as the thickener, you may not need cornstarch slurry unless you add too much water to the sauce.
Frequently asked questions:
- How to keep the leftover Mongolian beef?
The best way is to eat it fresh, but the leftover can be kept in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
- How to serve Mongolian beef?
Mongolian beef has a savory taste. /therefore, it is most suitable to serve with white rice.
- Do I need to add Hoisin sauce to formulate the Mongolian beef sauce?
Some recipes do add some Hoisin sauce, but I do not use it and it still tastes great.
The difference between Mongolian beef and other closely related Asian dishes
There are a few stir-fried Chinese takeouts on this blog which is closely related to Mongolian beef. These are stir fry beef with ginger and scallion （薑葱牛肉）, Mongolian beef (蒙古牛肉), General Tso’s chicken (左宗棠雞), and Sweet and sour chicken (咕嚕肉).
The major difference among these dishes is the savory sauce. In a nutshell, Mongolian beef is sweeter than stir-fry beef with ginger and scallion and does not include tomato ketchup as in sweet and sour chicken.
The following is the summary of the sauce ingredients for these dishes. You can access these recipes by clicking the links. If you like Mongolian beef, chances are you will also like these related stir0frying dishes.
- Mongolian beef: Light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, Shaoxing wine (optional), dried red chili (optional).
- General Tso’s chicken: Dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, rice vinegar sugar, sesame oil, tomato paste, cornstarch.
- Sweet and sour chicken: Tomato ketchup, chili sauce 40g, plum sauce, sugar, lemon juice., salt.
- Beef Stir Fry With Ginger And Scallion: Oyster sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, salt, ground white pepper.
Note: Dried red chili should be available at the Asian grocery store near you. You can use red pepper flakes as a substitute.
The easy Mongolian beef recipe
Ingredients A (beef)
- 300 g beef, (sirloin, tenderloin, chuck)
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
Ingredients B (Coating powder)
- 2 tablespoons wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Ingredients C (aromatics)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 20 g ginger, coarsely chopped
- 3 pieces dry red chili, , cut into short pieces]
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Ingredients D (Gravy)
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon dark soy sauce]
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (optional)
- 4 tablespoons water
Ingredients E (Others)
- 2 stalks scallion, , cut to 3cm long on the diagonal
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch slurry, , constitute with 1 tsp of cornstarch with 1 tbsp of water
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Cut the beef into thin slices. Marinate with the rest of the ingredient A for 15 minutes.
- Coat the marinated beef with ingredient (B). Deep-fried the beef slices in hot oil for two minutes. Remove and drained.
- Saute the rest of the ingredients (C) with oil until they turn fragrant.
- Add ingredients (D) and wait until it returns to a boil.
- Add the cornflour slurry to thicken the gravy.
- Add the beef and scallion. Flash fry for ten seconds. Serve.
Serving Size:2 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1169Total Fat: 76gSaturated Fat: 23gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 42gCholesterol: 217mgSodium: 2469mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 2gSugar: 14gProtein: 71g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 5/28/2019