Mongolian Beef

This dish reminds me of something you might get at an old-school Chinese restaurant

By KATIE WORKMAN for the Flathead Beacon

My family cannot get enough of Asian food, and any time I crank out a dish that announces itself with aromas of garlic, ginger and soy sauce, I pretty much know dinner will be a success.

That’s why I’m earmarking this dish for Halloween, since getting something hearty in my boys’ stomachs before the sugar-palooza is pretty much the extent of what I can control with teenagers.

This dish allows a wonderful glaze to coat the ultra-thin slices of steak. It reminds me of something you might get at an old-school Chinese restaurant.

Look for shaved beef steak: napkin-thin slices of beef that can come from any part of the cow. It might be labeled “sandwich steak” (for sandwiches like Philly subs), shabu-shabu beef (for Japanese cooking, or possibly Chinese hot-pot), Pho (used in the traditional Vietnamese soup) or braciole beef (from that classic Italian dish where it is wrapped around a filling, usually involving breadcrumbs and cheese). It’s bulgogi in Korean markets. Rouladen in German butcheries. If you have a friendly butcher, ordering this cut of meat can generate some interesting conversation about the different ways to cook it.

But back to our Mongolian beef recipe. Mongolian beef can be made with different types of thinly sliced or small-cut meat, and if shaved beef isn’t an option, place a piece of flank steak in the freezer until it’s quite firm but not totally frozen and then thinly slice it across the grain. It will essentially defrost as you cut it.

Dusting the slices of beef in cornstarch before sauteing them allows them to brown nicely. Then, when the beef meets with sauce, the cornstarch not only helps thicken the sauce, but it also helps the sauce coat the beef deliciously.

Mongolian Beef

Serves 6

Start to finish: 25 minutes

¼ cup (approximately) plus 2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil, divided

2 teaspoons finely minced garlic

1 tablespoon freshly minced ginger

½ cup less-sodium soy sauce

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 pounds beef shaved steak

3 tablespoons cornstarch

6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced (white and green parts)

Hot cooked brown or white rice to serve

In a small saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for 30 seconds. Then add the soy sauce and brown sugar and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently over medium heat. Allow it to simmer and reduce a bit, until it gets a glazy consistency, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, toss the shaved steak in a mixing bowl with the cornstarch until evenly distributed.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet (the bigger the better) over medium high heat. Line a counter or a large plate with paper towels. Sauté the beef in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan, and flipping it as it browns, about 1 minute on each side. Use a fork or tongs to remove the beef when it is browned, transferring it to the paper towels. Repeat until all of the beef is browned, adding more oil as needed (make sure the oil has a chance to get hot before you add the next batch of beef so it browns up nicely).

Pour off any additional oil and return the large skillet to medium high heat. Add all of the beef back to the pan, along with the sauce and scallions. Stir for about 3 minutes, until the sauce is thickened and glazes all of the meat evenly. Serve over the rice.

Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.”