I go on kicks each and every time I eat something amazing. I’ll eat sushi, and I will want it for a week straight. I have lasagna one day, and I’ll want ricotta for years. I become obsessive, and I’ll fall in love so deeply in that moment.
It kind of reminds me of teenaged infatuation; I have my “flavor of the week,” but eventually get over it and find something better. 🙂
Today, I had absolutely no inspiration whatsoever. I also knew I had to blog this weekend–eep. I decided that I needed to, after spending an hour in the grocery store roaming, just make something quick and delicious–and bam–I thought about making Mongolian Beef Noodles.
Stir frying is my go-to weeknight strategy because everything cooks so quickly. It’s also great for when I have a temptation to call for some take-out Chinese. I think that many people feel that they cannot make Chinese food themselves, and I am really not sure why. Chinese food isn’t difficult to make at all! Make a bucket list of your favorites from your local joint, and then go figure it out. One of my personal favorites is what I am making today.
Mongolian Beef Noodles has a perfect balance of sweet and salty. I like to add mini sweet bell peppers to get some natural sweetness in my vegetables, and it gives the dish a nice bright flair. I also add honey, mandarin oranges, and brown sugar to enhance the sweet flavor. The salty, savory factor comes from the green onions, garlic, and ginger. In terms of vegetables, you can use whatever you want. I like to throw in broccoli as beef and broccoli are an amazing pairing in the Chinese realm. I have seen people make it with coleslaw mix (note: NOT mayonnaise-laden prepared coleslaw, but rather, the vegetables). You could add whatever vegetables you like! Seriously! If you’re not too creative, think about what vegetables you actually enjoy eating when you dig through that white take-out container.
In terms of the beef, use flank steak, and make sure the meat is sliced thinly. To expedite the cooking process, the meat needs to be cooked not only thinly, but in smaller pieces (go for bite size.) I am also a big fan of marinating your meat whenever possible. Flank is not particularly tender, so I think it needs to sit for a little bit. More time is best, but if you don’t have all the time in the world, look to marinate your meat in the soy sauce/corn starch slurry immediately while you prep your vegetables–the half an hour bath will do just fine. The soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil will tenderize the meat.
There are two reasons why you want to add cornstarch to your meat: 1.) it thickens the sauce to make a succulent brown sauce, and 2.) it prevents the meat from overcooking and becoming tough. If you don’t have cornstarch, you can use flour, but I think cornstarch is the best way to get the traditional Chinese results.
Alright, enough talking–let’s get to dinner.
Marry the Meat
- 1 pound flank steak, cut across the grain into 1/8″ thin slices, then cut into 2” length pieces (think bite size)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar (if you don’t have it, skip it–but I like it!)
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil* (Again, you could skip, but it’s another step closer to authentic Chinese)
- 1 Mandarian orange (Cuties, Halos, whatever brand), juice squeezed** (optional, but I like the acidity and sweetness; alternatively, pour in 2 tablespoons of orange juice!)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
Fry on the Fly
- 2 tablespoons of canola oil
- 3 cups broccoli florets (I just microwaved a bag of frozen florets)
- 6 mini bell peppers, sliced thinly (no seeds, please!)–you could also used 1 whole bell pepper so long as its sweet!
- 6 green onions, chopped (2 green onions reserved for garnish, the rest is for the stir fry itself)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (If you don’t have any, you can leave it out, but ginger is another authentic Asian aromatic!)
- 1 box of Rice Noodles (cook to directions)–if you’re really in a bind, you can use pasta (shhh!) or white rice
The Slurry in a Hurry
- 1 Mandarian orange, juice squeezed** (optional, but I like the acidity and sweetness; alternatively, pour in 2 tablespoons of orange juice!)
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed (add more if you like sweeter sauces)
- 1/4 cup Asian sweet chili sauce (optional–I just used Sriracha because I ran out of Sambal Oelek)
- 2 tablespoons mirin/sweet Japanese rice wine or rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1-2 teaspoons Sriracha
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- Make your rice noodles to the package’s directions. You can cook them by boiling water (like pasta) in ten minutes, or you can soak them in cold water (takes longer, but is a traditional method) for about 45 minutes.
- Next, slice your beef on a diagonal to the size specifications above. Add the meat to a large freezer bag along with 1 tablespoon soy sauce,. Toss to evenly coat. Add 1/4 cup cornstarch and toss to evenly coat. Let sit at room temperature 30-60 minutes at the very minimum.
- Slice your peppers thinly, and slice the green onions. Take out garlic cloves and 1 inch piece of ginger; press both through a garlic press. Alternatively, mince garlic and ginger finely with a chef’s knife.
- Once your ingredients are prepped, then begin your sauce. Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil a large nonstick skillet or a wok (I prefer using a wok) over high heat until very hot and sizzling. Add beef to the skillet and break up any clumps; cook without stirring for 1 minute, then stir and cook until beef is browned and almost cooked through, about 1-2 minutes (it will cook more in the sauce). Don’t overcook or it won’t be as tender! Transfer beef to a large plate and cover it up so it doesn’t get cold.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and saute the peppers. Throw the meat back in and add the garlic (use a garlic press, if you have one.) Stir frequently with tongs. Throw in almost all of the green onions (reserve some for garnish.)
- Microwave the broccoli to the directions on the package (about 5 minutes), and once it is cooked, add it to the pan. Once the noodles are cooked and drained, add to the wok/skillet, too.
- Return the beef to the skillet and toss to combine. Whisk the sauce to recombine then add to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly with tongs, until the sauce is thickened, the beef is cooked and vegetables are crisp tender, about 1-2 minutes. Taste and add additional sriracha, sweet chili sauce, if you would like. Add the rest green onions as a garnish. If you have sesame seeds, you could add these also! Tip: If the sauce isn’t thickening, turn the heat up to a simmer, and then drop it low. Also, you may need to add more cornstarch.
- Eat immediately. Try to use chopsticks without making a mess. 🙂 Slurp away!