Many readers might not know that I grew up in Beijing, so I’m pretty picky when it comes to Asian-inspired recipes. We had a vegetarian nanny who specialized in Szechuan cooking (and PB&J sandwiches) who spoiled me for life. I know my skills are still nowhere near hers, but this Mongolian Beef Stir Fry is pretty delicious, if I do say so myself.
Mongolian Beef is not actually Mongolian – there are two versions out there, one that originated in Taiwan and one that originated in Chinese-American restaurants. Authentic Mongolian cooking rarely contains beef and meat is often cooked into stew or cooked with hot rocks.
This recipe takes the best of the Taiwanese tradition and adapts it to Western cooking materials and techniques. It has more flavour than any restaurant version yet is easy to recreate at home. Think slightly crunchy yet juicy slices of meat infused with a flavourful sauce, and crunchy just-cooked vegetables overtop of rice, noodles, or on their own. I’m giving tips on how to dial up the heat if you want, or keep just the flavour without the heat if you’re making this for your family.
There are a couple ingredients that you might not have on hand – oyster sauce and sesame oil – but I can guarantee you that if you like Asian food, you will find lots of opportunities to use these ingredients once you see how much they add to your cooking.
Oyster sauce is kind of like soy sauce’s older sister – a bit more sophisticated and a bit more confident. It’s great in stir fries like this and can transform a simple noodle dish into something much more savoury and umami. (Kind of like an Asian Worcestershire sauce?)
Sesame oil on the other hand has a slightly nutty flavour and can be added while cooking or as a light finishing touch on a dish. I’ve used it in everything from salad dressings to my daughter’s favourite peanut butter chicken noodles (recipe coming soon – if she would just let me photograph it before she eats it!)
How to Make Mongolian Beef Stir Fry
First, grab a wok and gather your ingredients:
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce or soy sauce
- 1-2 Tablespoons brown sugar, optional
- 1-2 Tablespoons ginger, grated (about a thumb sized piece)
- 2-4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- Salt & Pepper, to taste (a great time to check out Szcheuan pepper)
- 1 lb sliced beef
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs, optional
- 1 cup coconut or olive oil, for frying
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for finishing
- Chilli oil, optional
- 1/2 cup beef stock, optional
- 2 cups cooked rice or noodles, optional
- 2 cups preferred vegetables
- 1 cup snap peas
- 1/2 cup shredded cabbage
- 1 whole carrot, spiralized or cut thinly
Kitchen Tools Used for this Recipe:
I use a zesting grater to help with the ginger. It adds real heat to the dish, so adjust to your tastes. We don’t use brown sugar anymore when I make this dish, but it can help make the dish a bit more palatable for kids (and it’s not a huge amount) giving a nice balance of sweet and spicy.
The Panko bread crumbs add a little extra crunch (and they are my preferred brand) but the cornstarch will create a crunchy coating on the meat on it’s own if you’d prefer to skip the bread crumbs.
Now I’m giving you the quick version below, but if you have the option to marinade your beef, add all of the “meat seasonings” along with just enough beef stock to cover the meat into a covered dish and let sit in the fridge overnight. This isn’t an essential step and you will still get a flavourful meal without it – but the meat will absorb a bit more flavour if let to sit in the marinade.
First, start by seasoning your meat. Salt, pepper, oyster or soy sauce & the optional chilli oil go directly on the meat and toss it around to ensure as much of the meat gets to absorb that flavour as possible.
Next, toss the meat in cornstarch – this is going to help achieve that crunchy texture and prevent the steak from drying out. After completely coating the meat with the cornstarch, add in the bread crumbs and give another toss.
In your wok, add your frying oil of choice along with the sesame oil, onions, garlic, and ginger. If you want some heat in your dish, add some red pepper flakes at this point. Heat until the onions are translucent before adding the meat.
Add the meat in small batches to avoid overcrowding. If you add too much meat while cooking, it brings down the temperature of your oil and results in braising – this means soggy, not crunchy, meat. If you’re worried about the meat getting too cool before serving, you can set your oven to 200F and “store” the meat in there.
Fry each side of the meat until the cornstarch is golden, about 3-4 minutes each side. Cut into and check the first piece of meat to ensure that the thickness is still allowing the meat to cook thoroughly.
Once you are done cooking all of the meat, add the vegetables to the cooking oil to give them a quick sauté. You want them to remain crunchy but not quite raw, about 4 minutes.
Take the wok off of the heat, add in the meat and rice or noodles, and toss. Adjust the seasoning as desired – adding some sesame and/or chilli oil, more oyster sauce, salt and pepper, or red pepper flakes to bring the dish to the flavour profile you desire.
Here’s your free printable for my Mongolain Beef Stir-fry Recipe:
Are you a fan of Asian recipes? What dishes have you successfully served to your kids?