When I was pregnant with my twins I got a craving for Chinese food. A bad one. In fact, it didn’t go away when I ate Chinese food. It would subside- mostly- for awhile, only to come back a couple of days later. Then my ex-husband left me while I was still pregnant and I became a single mom of twin infants- with a budget to match. Needless to say, money was too tight to go out for Chinese. I met the man who was to become my husband/soul mate and things got better. But money was still super tight so going out for good Chinese was not an option. (And why would you settle for mediocre food if you’re spending money to go out to eat?!) It was a year and a half before I got to go out for Chinese food again. That put the total time for having my craving go unfulfilled at two years. Two years!! I won’t say it was agony- I’m not that dramatic. But there were times that it wasn’t pleasant. I know what you’re thinking: “Why didn’t you just make some Chinese food?” The answer is that I was afraid. The really good recipes called for ingredients like Oyster Sauce and Sweet Chili Sauce- things I’d never bought before. I was… intimidated. I was too scared to try cooking with such things. A foolish fear, I know. But I was. I’m not proud of it. But I finally bit the bullet, so to speak, and bought the ingredients. Then I felt like the fool I had been; the food was delicious! And so easy! Had I taken a deep breath and forged ahead I could have saved myself two years of craving Chinese food. I vowed never again to be afraid of trying my hand at a cuisine and have been much happier since 🙂 I now have a few great Chinese recipes in my repertoire.

Mongolian Beef is one of my favorites. It’s got great flavor the first time around but it’s as leftovers that it really hits it’s stride- like good Chinese food should. I’ll post some more craving-busting Chinese recipes later, but this makes a good start as it’s super simple and doesn’t require any special ingredients.

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The only noteworthy ingredient here is the beef. I use flank steak, sliced thin. You could certainly try another cut but I don’t know what the results will be. I stick with flank steak and if I can’t get it I make something else. Toss the steak with corn starch (a.k.a. corn flour) and let it sit for 10 minutes. This is a very important step because you need to let the cornstarch soak up some of the moisture from the beef so that it forms a breading instead of just falling off in the oil. The result will not be terribly attractive, but it’s ok. This is exactly how it should look, so you don’t worry…

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While the meat is resting in the cornstarch, start heating a pan or deep fryer filled (no more than half way or you will be sorry!) with oil. Heat it to about 375 degrees. If you don’t have an oil/candy thermometer it’s ok. You can heat the oil and then put in a cube or small piece of bread. If it turns golden brown in about 30-45 seconds you’re there. Ten minutes should be plenty of time for the oil to heat up so once the 10 minutes are up start frying your beef in small batches, frying each batch for about 3-4 minutes. Once again the result will not be Vogue cover-worthy, but it’s ok. The flavor of the finished dish is fantastic- looks aren’t really paramount here.

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While the meat is frying you can go ahead and mix the sauce ingredients. What you start with will look nothing like the Mongolian Beef sauce you’re familiar with.

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It looks like soy sauce with garlic- unevenly sized pieces of garlic at that. Completely unremarkable. But once you put this over the meat & onions things will get interesting, I promise. SO once you’ve finished with the meat and the sauce, put a scant teaspoon of oil in a nonstick pan or about 2 teaspoons of oil in a regular skillet and saute the onions until they just begin to soften. They don’t do this in the restaurant version but I like the way sauteing brings out the full flavor of the onions so this is how I do it. Add the sauce to the pan and bring to a rolling boil, then add the meat and let the whole thing boil until the sauce thickens; about 5-8 minutes.

A note: unless you like VERY hot Mongolian Beef DO NOT put the red pepper flakes in until the last 30 seconds to one minute. The garlic and ginger already add a small amount of heat to the sauce so there are days I don’t put the pepper flakes in at all. But if I do add them it’s at the last moment and it’s a nice touch of heat. Adding them at the beginning would let the heat build to the point of needing a warning for any spice wimps in the house!

I only serve this over noodles (mine happen to be a Ramen/chow mein type noodle but you can even use spaghetti noodles if you want) but you could serve it over rice if you wanted to. I’ve tried it with rice but it tasted like something was missing without the noodles there. If I were to serve it over rice again I would use fried rice… that sounds good… now I’m going to have to make this again soon 😉

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Now doesn’t that look like it just came out of a take out box? This is one of my family’s favorite chinese take out fake out dishes. Whenever I make it the girls ask to take it to school for lunch the next day- and it’s even better than it was the day I made it. In fact, sometimes I make this just to have the leftovers in the fridge for lunches- it’s that good! And I can have it any time I crave Chinese. Life is good 🙂

The Recipe:

1 1/2 Lbs. Flank Steak, cut into 3rds WITH the grain (long ways), and then sliced very thin AGAINST the grain

About 1/2 C Cornstarch, or enough to coat the steak evenly as pictured above

1 t Powdered Ginger (if using freshly grated you will need about 2 teaspoons)

2 T Garlic, minced (about 4 LARGE cloves)

1 C Soy Sauce

1 C Water

1 C Brown Sugar (I know this sounds like alot but this sauce makes enough to cover 1 1/2 pounds of meat, veggies, and noodles so it gets spread out)

¼ C Rice or White Wine (I use more water if I don’t have any wine in the house, which is most of the time)

4 Green Onions, green and white parts, sliced thin

½ Medium Onion, sliced thin

1 t Red Pepper Flakes

Noodles (or rice) to serve with

The Method:

*Heat a heavy pan or deep fryer filled no more than halfway with oil to 375 degrees.

*While oil is heating stir cornstarch into the meat and let sit for 10 minutes.

*After 10 minutes and once the oil is heated fry meat in batches, cooking 3-4 minutes per batch. Drain and let cool. Break up any meat that has clumped together (not usually a problem but every once in awhile you’ll get some meat that likes to be a little too friendly).

*While the meat is frying mix sauce ingredients together, reserving red pepper flakes for last unless you are REALLY into super spicy food.

*Saute onions 2-3 minutes, until just beginning to soften.

*Add sauce mixture and bring to a rolling boil.

*Add meat to sauce and onions and boil until thickened, about 5-8 minutes.

*Serve over noodles or rice.

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