What is Mongolian Beef? How to Cook it Like a Chef?

What is Mongolian Beef? It's seared and sauces coated beef dish

Are you wondering, “what is Mongolian Beef?” OR How can you make it fast?” You must have tasted this savory dish and thought it was imported from Mongolia.

SHHHHH! You could be wrong!

Indeed, the Mongolian Beef has got many things to tell you about its origin, authentic recipe, and easy version.

However, it requires a 20-minute thorough study of this well-researched article.

So keep reading.  

What is Mongolian Beef – Is it a Taiwanese American Dish?

The most popular dish in Chinese restaurants is a thinly sliced beef steak cooked until crispy on high heat and quickly. It got its name from Mongolian barbecue.

They make the sweet and savory sauce from soy sauce and brown sugar, giving it a heavenly sweet-tangy taste. It’s often not that spicy. That’s why people get addicted to it and order it multiple times. 

The beef is usually mixed with vegetables and scallions. Its most noticeable feature is the thin and tender pieces of meat in a sweet and savory sauce. 

They usually serve the dish with steamed or Chinese rice, though they serve it with crispy noodles in America. Or as I like to have it, with regular Chow Mein noodles. The dish gained a lot of reputation in the 1950s when Chinese barbecue was trending.

However, being called “Mongolian,” the dish has no association with Mongolian cuisine

The dish’s name references the Mongolian barbecue style: quick cooking over high heat. ONLY!

Now that you know what Mongolian beef is, you must think,” if Mongolian beef isn’t Mongolian, what are its origins then?” In Mongolia, they don’t make stir-fry dishes; they simply boil meats and dip them in sauce to serve.

None of the ingredients or cooking methods are from traditional Mongolian cuisine. This dish is a Taiwanese-American dish adapted from the Mongolian barbecue beef component. It’s primarily found in Chinese-American restaurants in the US.

What is Mongolian sauce?

Mongolian sauce is the superstar of this dish and gives it all the flavor it needs. They usually make the sauce from soy sauce which gives it a salty taste, water, and brown sugar, which sweetens it. 

The ingredients include Asian sweet chili sauce, hoisin, pepper, sriracha, and, finally, corn starch to make it thick.

These things combine to make the Mongolian sauce, which is then coated on the beef and served, giving it a sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy flavor.

How Long Does it Take to Make Mongolian Beef?

If you’re anything like me, your mouth must be watering by now, and you must think, “I know what it is! Tell me how to make it and how much time?”

 I’ve got good news for you! It’s effortless to make this dish, and you can make it in half an hour!

The total prep time for this dish is just 10 minutes. After prepping everything, cooking only takes 20 minutes!. So that’s ‌30 minutes. Don’t worry if it takes longer than it will be your first time.

Easy Mongolian Beef Recipe

Now let’s dive right into ‌making Mongolian beef! Are you excited? 

I know I am, so let’s start! 

First, you need to know what kind of meat goes in Mongolian beef, which is evident by its name. Usually, chefs use cow meat to make it. They use flank steak.

We’ll break down everything into three parts: the tools needed, the ingredients required, and finally, the directions for cooking.

Tools required to make easy Mongolian Beef recipe

You need two tools besides the basic spatulas and other kitchen tools. The first tool is the wok, great for quick and high heat cooking. A wok will even help you make other Chinese food or stir-fried dishes.

The second tool you might need is a large frying pan. The stainless steel one will work perfectly.

Ingredients

You need the following ingredients to cook your easy Mongolian beef at home:

  • Two teaspoons of vegetable oil
  • One tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
  • ½ a cup of soy sauce (you should use low sodium)
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ a cup of water
  • ⅔ cup dark brown sugar
  • Beef flanks, preferably cow, 1 pound (you need to slice the steak ¼ inch thick diagonally thinly)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch for the sauce
  • Two bunches of green onions, which need to be cut by you in 2-inch lengths

Directions to Make an Easy Mongolian Beef Recipe

Now that we have everything we need to get started let’s go over the directions to make Mongolian beef.

The Sauce

  • First, we’ll start by working on the sauce and heat two teaspoons of vegetable oil in a saucepan. Keep cooking and stirring the garlic and ginger until they give off fragrance, which will take about 30 seconds.
  • Now pour soy sauce, water, and dark brown sugar into the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir. Keep stirring for about 4 minutes until the mixture has adequately dissolved everything. The mixture will thicken slightly. Remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Cooking beef

  • You need to put the sliced beef into a bowl, add some cornstarch (about ¼ cup), and stir the mixture. Coat the meat thoroughly. Allow the mixture to sit until the cornstarch absorbs all the juice from the meat, which will take about 10 minutes. 
  • Simmer the veggie oil in a wok to about 190 degrees Celsius.
  • Take the beef, shake all the excess cornstarch off the meat, and drop it in. It’ll take 2 minutes. 
  • Take out the beef from the wok with a spoon with holes and place it on paper towels so that they can absorb the excess oil.

Mixing everything

  • Now finally, pour the oil out of the wok. Bring the pan again to medium heat. 
  • Place the beef slices into the pan and stir while pouring the sauce we made and set aside beforehand. Now add the green onions to the mixture. 
  • Keep cooking until the mixture boils, and let it simmer till the onions have softened and turned bright green. It’ll take about 2 minutes.

Most Authentic Mongolian Beef Recipe

Although the other recipes may be easier to make, this recipe is far more authentic and will make your taste buds extremely happy. Here are the ingredients you need for the original version of the recipe.

Ingredients for Authentic Mongolian Beef recipe

Although the other ingredients are almost identical to the different recipes, these are the extra ingredients included in the authentic recipe:

  • Vegetable / peanut oil. (1 cup for frying meat, two tablespoons for mixing)
  • Broccoli florets 
  • Red bell pepper (2 bell peppers chopped up)
  • Asian Sweet Chilli Sauce. It’s a sweet sauce that is slightly spicy and full of flavor. It’s made from red chilies, garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar, Japanese rice wine, and onion (1 tablespoon).
  • Hoisin Sauce (3 tablespoons)
  • Asian hot sauce (According to taste)

Steps to Make Authentic Mongolian Beef

Preparing the beef
  • First, slice the beef thinly. Although marinade is important, thin slices help it be more tender. This step will be much easier if you freeze it beforehand for about 30 minutes. 

You can freeze it for as long as you like, though it should be just enough to handle easily. Necessary instruction for this is that you need to slice the beef across the grain. 

These are muscle fibers that make up the meat. Cutting parallel to them will leave long, chewy muscle fibers. Perpendicular cutting makes them tender.

  • Now the last step in preparing the beef is marinating it. In our case, we use a soy sauce and cornstarch mixture. Let it stay for thirty minutes to an hour.
Making Sauce

Now you need to whisk together the sauce ingredients in a bowl. These ingredients include:

  • Soy sauce
  • Water (3 tablespoons)
  • Asian sweet chili sauce (1 tablespoon)
  • Hoisin (3 tablespoons)
  • Pepper (½ teaspoon)
  • Sriracha (1 teaspoon)
  • Cornstarch (2 teaspoons)
  • Rice wine (2 tablespoons)
  • Brown sugar (½ cup)
Stir-frying beef for the original recipe
  • Pour about two tablespoons of oil into the wok or skillet over high heat until it’s hot. It needs to be smoking hot so that the beef seers. 
  • Now you need to work in multiple batches and not all, ‌as it will cause the beef to steam instead of searing.
  • Add a single layer of beef to the skillet for about a minute and flip it. Now cook on the other side and then remove it.
Cooking Broccoli
  • 1-Pour a tablespoon of oil into a pan and heat over a high heat. 
  • 2-Saute the broccoli for about 30 seconds. 
  • 3-Add about three tablespoons of water and cover the pan. Lower the heat to medium and steam the broccoli for a couple of minutes. 
  • Line the broccoli on the sides of the pan with none in the center and add a tablespoon of olive oil in the middle. Now add bell pepper, garlic, ginger, and green onions, and saute them with the broccoli for a minute.
  • 4-Now the last step is to mix everything. 
  • 5-Put the beef back into the skillet and toss it all up. Whip the sauce another time and pour it into the skillet.
  • 6-Cook it while stirring until the sauce has a thick texture, the veggies are crisp and tender, and the beef is ready.
  • It’ll all take about 2 minutes. Taste the beef and add more sriracha, sweet chili sauce, or anything else you desire according to taste. Serve it with steamed rice.

What can you serve with Authentic Mongolian Beef?

Now that you have made Mongolian beef, a fantastic stand-alone recipe, what do you serve with it? We ‌answer that question here.

The most basic way to serve this dish that most Chinese restaurants adhere to is to serve Mongolian beef over steamed rice, but we can be more creative!

You could also serve Mongolian beef with spaghetti or Chinese noodles! You might not have known about it, but I love combining Chinese gravies and stir-fried dishes with noodles. Try it, and you’ll be surprised by how good it is.

Americans also serve Mongolian beef with crispy cellophane noodles, giving the dish a light and crisp texture. You can even have friend noodles with it. That’s also a delicious alternative.

Pro Tips to Make Original Mongolian Beef 

You may know how to make Mongolian beef now, but follow these tips for the best result! 

Coating Beef in Cornstarch

First, always coat the meat in cornstarch; it’s one of the most critical steps. It helps in making the beef tender and crispy. Don’t forget that it also makes the sauce richer.

Slicing Beef Against the Grain

The most common part of beef used to make Mongolian beef is flank steam sliced against the grain. A problem might surface that flank steak isn’t always found easily at grocery stores; therefore, New York strip steaks are also a brilliant choice of beef. Though both cuts work well with this recipe, you can use either.

Always Prepare Beef in Batches or per Serving

Another helpful tip that will allow you to enjoy the perfect Mongolian beef is that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Sear the slices of meat in batches, and don’t place them in the pan all at once. It’ll overcrowd the pan, not allowing the beef to sear appropriately, and they won’t steam well either.

Variations in Authentic Mongolian Beef

From the Bible of Mongolian Beef, we’ve also got you a few variations that can help you make your dish more versatile or save you when you don’t have certain ingredients.

  • You can even use chicken instead of beef in making Mongolian beef. We know it’s called Mongolian “beef,” but chicken is a fantastic substitute. You can also make it vegetarian by adding tofu instead of any meat!
  • You can add some vegetables into the mix to make things more fun! Bite-sized broccoli florets go great with Mongolian beef. You can also add spinach to the dish to increase the fiber content or even sliced red peppers to spice things up.
  • You can also make Mongolian beef in a cooker or an instant pot! If you don’t have access to a stovetop. Be extremely careful while making Pot Mongolian beef as it can easily overcook the meat and change it from being nice and tender to mush.
  • You can also substitute for other vegetables. 
  • You can also customize the spice by adding chili peppers or sauces such as chili sauce or sriracha. You can even replace vegetable oil with peanut oil. However, we can’t substitute olive oil for the other two, as it has a lower smoking point.

FAQs

Can you make authentic Mongolian beef ahead for quick defrosting?

Although the dish doesn’t take a long time to make anyway, you can still prep everything beforehand so that when the time comes to serve, you can easily in a few minutes.

Here are a few ways:

Make-ahead the components

You can opt to cook the beef when the time comes but prepare the sauce beforehand to put you at ease and conserve time. Cool it down and pour it into an airtight container to make the sauce ahead. We can store this inside the fridge for up to 5 days. 

You can even prepare the beef for storage, though the storage time is about a day. Slice up the steak and store it in the fridge.

When the time has come to cook, place the beef in salt, pepper, and cornstarch, and sear the steak in the pan as in the recipe. Also, don’t forget to pre-warm the pan first so as not to let the temperature drop, resulting in uneven cooking of the steak.

Fully make it ahead

To fully make the Mongolian beef recipe ahead of time, you need to prepare it and let it cool completely. Seal it in an airtight box and place it in your refrigerator. This way, you can store it for up to 3 days.

When you need to serve it, pour the dish into a large skillet and let it cook on medium-low heat until it has warmed up thoroughly. It’ll take about 5-6 minutes.

Can you freeze Mongolian Beef?

The answer to this question is “definitely yes”!  You can quickly freeze Mongolian Beef. 

It stays fresh even after freezing, except for the bell peppers, as they get mushy after being frozen. Let it cool before transferring it to an airtight container that’s freezer friendly. You can store it for up to three months.

How can you reheat Mongolian Beef?

To reheat the frozen Mongolian beef, place the rigid container of the dish into the fridge and let it thaw. You can leave it overnight for this process.

Next, pour the mixture into a large pan and heat it under medium-low heat until the sauce is thick and the beef has heated all the way through.

What is Mongolian BBQ?

You have heard a lot about Mongolian BBQ until now, but what is it? Mongolian BBQ is also a stir-fried dish from which Mongolian beef got its name. It was first developed in Taiwan in 1951.

In this dish, they cook meat and veggies together on large, round, steady iron woks that can handle temperatures of up to 300 degrees celsius. Funny thing to note, this dish isn’t Mongolian, and it isn’t barbecue either.

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