Mongolian Beef – Tender strips of beef and vegetables are cooked in a sweet and savory soy sauce and served over a bed of rice or lo mein noodles.
When it comes to Chinese food, I tend to stick to what I know and love: sesame chicken, sweet & sour chicken, and orange chicken. All chicken dishes and all sweet. How predictable is that?
However, things changed when a friend of mine introduced me to Mongolian beef. She orders it everywhere and raves about how yummy it is. So when having lunch at a local Chinese spot one day, I took a taste for myself. It was so yummy and tender with a hint of sweetness and no spice. Right up my alley!
During this extra time at home, I’ve been using it to cook up new things. I rarely cook beef at home and even more rarely cook Chinese food. Time to switch things up, people!
So for today’s recipe, I am sharing my recipe for Mongolian beef – made with no fancy ingredients at all!
What is Mongolian beef?
This is a tricky thing to answer…I couldn’t find an exact definition about what ingredients go in to Mongolian beef aside from these basics:
- Thinly slices beef
- Sliced onions
- Sweet sauce
- Not spicy
Because this beef is so basic, you’ll find various recipes, some using fancy Chinese ingredients like fish sauce and hoisin sauce. But there’s no need for all that. All you need is soy sauce, brown sugar, and some spices to achieve a yummy sauce that accompanies this beef perfectly.
How is this recipe made?
This beef is made in a few main steps: cook the veggies, cook the beef, and cook the sauce. Each of these take different amounts of time and heat so we cook them separately and then toss them together at the end.
We start with the veggies to lay down the base flavor in the pan. The white onion and peppers are cooked for a couple minutes to soften them and flavor the oil before we cook the meat. The veggies are removed and set aside.
Next comes the beef. It’s tossed in cornstarch before we add it to a very hot pan with oil. The cornstarch will create a slightly crispy exterior and help thicken the sauce later on. For this step, you’re only going to cook it enough to sear the outside and then remove it from the pan. It’ll cook more when we add it to the sauce.
This sauce is one of the simplest you’ll ever make, especially for a Chinese dish. It’s made with soy sauce, water, ground ginger, minced garlic, and brown sugar. I add in a little Sriracha to give it a little zing of flavor but you don’t have to.
The sauce cooks together for a minute before we add the beef in to finish cooking for another minute. Finally the veggies are added back and toss in the sauce with the beef. And that’s all there is to it!
I serve my beef over rice, but you can also serve over noodles, if you prefer.
Tips & Tricks
- The beef will thicken the sauce so if you want it more on the runny side, don’t let the sauce thicken too much before the beef is added to it.
- It’s important to cook the veggies and beef on high to get them to cook fast but still stay tender. But to make sure they don’t burn, stir them constantly.
- 1 lb thinly cut steak cut into strips
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2 bell peppers sliced into strips
- 1 medium white onion sliced into strips
For the sauce:
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (optional)
- 4 stalks green onion
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- Add the beef strips to a large storage bag. Add the cornstarch. Seal the bag, removing all air and shake to coat the beef in the cornstarch. Set aside.
- Place 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet and set over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the pepper and onion to the pan. Toss occasionally to help them cook evenly. Once you see the veggies start to char a little, remove from the pan and place in a bowl to set aside, leaving oil in the pan. Return pan to heat and add remaining tablespoons of oil.
- Once oil is hot, add beef and sear for about 1 minute per side. Remove from pan and place in a separate bowl from the veggies. If there is excess fat or oil in the pan, drain it out.
- Place pan back on stove and heat to medium-high. Add soy sauce and water to pan. The pan should sizzle and the burnt beef pieces should loosen up from the pan. Use a spoon to help them out. Add in the brown sugar, minced garlic cloves, and ground ginger to the sauce and stir together. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to medium heat.
- Add in the Sriracha and the beef to the sauce. Cook for 1 minute or until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the veggies back in and toss them in the sauce. Cook for 1 minute to heat them up and then remove from heat.
- Serve beef over white steamed rice or lo mein noodles.