I recently took a trip to Buenos Aires’ Barrio Chino (Chinatown) and was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of Asian ingredients available. Finally, I could get my hands on hot sauce, soy sauce not made in Argentina (the versions made here are really quite bad to my taste), sesame oil, and more. They even had my favorite brand of soy sauce – Kimlan. But, unlike in the US, these bottles weren’t re-labeled with English and only had the most basic information written in Spanish on stickers attached to the sides of the bottles. So what I thought was my trusty Kimlan Super Special soy sauce turned out to be thick soy sauce instead. Thick soy sauce (not to be confused with dark soy sauce), also known as soy paste or soy jam, is sweetened and quite thick, often used for dipping sauces and, apparently, to color fried rice in many Chinese restaurants. I wasn’t sure what to do with the stuff, but when I saw this Mongolian beef recipe that called for large quantities of soy sauce and brown sugar, I knew this thick soy sauce would be the perfect alternative. This classic Americanized Chinese dish (despite the name, it is most certainly not Mongolian) is very simple to make, and although I wouldn’t quite call this recipe healthy, I’m sure it’s better than the usual take-out versions. In addition to the thick soy sauce, cornstarch further thickens the sauce (while tenderizing the beef as well). I also tossed in thickly sliced onions and bell peppers for color and variety of texture. I served mine over cauliflower rice, though of course, regular rice will work just fine, too.
Mongolian Beef (adapted from Just a Taste)
Yield: 4 – 6 servings
- 1 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp vegetable oil*
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece ginger, minced
- 1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups thick soy sauce**
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil (optional)
- 2 lbs flank steak, sliced against the grain into 1″ x 1/4″ pieces
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 onion, thickly sliced
- 2 bell peppers, thickly sliced
- 6 scallions, green parts, sliced into 1″ pieces
*I used coconut oil, but any oil that can stand up to high heat will be fine work.
**Not to be confused with dark soy sauce, thick soy sauce (also known as soy paste or soy jam) is sweet and thick, often used for dipping sauces. Kecap manis would be a good substitute here, or you can use equal quantities of regular (preferably low sodium) soy sauce and brown sugar, making sure to simmer until the brown sugar is completely dissolved, and the mixture has thickened.
- In a small saucepot over medium-high heat, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, then add 6 cloves garlic, minced, 1-inch piece ginger, minced, and 1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes, if using, and sautee until fragrant and starting to darken, about 1 minute.
- Add 1 1/2 cups thick soy sauce, 1 cup water, and 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil, if using, and cook, stirring, until combined. Remove from heat, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine 2 lbs flank steak, sliced against the grain into 1″ x 1/4″ pieces with 1/2 cup cornstarch, and toss together. Shake off excess cornstarch, and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a wok, large sautee pan, or large pot, heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat, then sautee 1 onion, thickly sliced and 2 bell peppers, thickly sliced until the onions are translucent and the bell peppers have softened, about 5 – 10 minutes.
- Remove the vegetables from the pan, and set aside, then add a little more vegetable oil to the pan, and turn the heat to high.
- Add the beef to the pan in batches, sauteeing each batch until seared on all sides but barely cooked in the center, then removing to a paper-towel lined plate.
- Pour out any excess oil, then add the prepared sauce to the hot pan, along with the reserved steak and vegetables. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until everything is thoroughly combined, and the beef has just cooked through, about 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add 6 scallions, green parts, sliced into 1″ pieces, and stir to combine, then remove from heat, and serve.