Sunday, January 17, 2021

Mongolian Beef - Adventures in Wok Cooking

We recently moved into a new home, and in this new home is our first gas stovetop.  Our last home didn't have any gas, so cooking with gas wasn't an option, obviously.  Wok cooking isn't that great on an electric stovetop, especially the glass top kind that we had. It just doesn't get hot enough.  SO, now that we have gas, we had to get a wok! It's carbon steel, and my husband spent a lot of time seasoning it last weekend.  Our inaugural use was to make fried rice, which turned out excellent.  For our 2nd foray into wok cooking we made Mongolian Beef.  This is a favorite dish of ours at a local Chinese restaurant, and I have to say, ours turned out just as good, maybe even better!  It is relatively simple too, and comes together quickly, all marks of a dinner we plan to repeat again and again.  

Rice Sidebar:  I now exclusively make rice in my InstaPot.  It is the epitome of set it and forget it.  I have gotten sidetracked before and not released the steam at the prescribed time, and guess what, no big deal, the rice was still just fine.  This is my kind of appliance cooking.  For this recipe, I used brown basmati rice in the InstaPot.  1:1.25 ratio of rice to water. Rinse the rice, add to Instapot.  Using manual pressure cooking, set to 22 minutes.  After it is done cooking, let it stay on natural steam release for 10 minutes, then manually release the steam. I then left it in the Instapot undisturbed for another 30 mins (with it unplugged) while we made the Mongolian beef.  Fluff with a fork right before serving.  Viola, non-mushy rice.  

Mongolian Beef: You will need to marinade the beef, so some forethought into making this is required.  Start the beef and get it in the marinade, then get the rice going, and you should be just fine on timing. After the beef marinades for about an hour, you will dredge it in corn starch.  Then you are ready to cook!  Once you start cooking it all comes together pretty quickly.  

First batch of beef hitting the hot wok

Don't let it sit to long, keep it turning in the pan

First batch done and sitting off to the side

More beef ready, keep it stirring in the wok

Next up you will made the sauce in the pan and cook the veggies. Once those are cooked, add back in the beef and get a good coating on the meat, letting it soak up the sauce.   Then it's time to eat! 

While all this was happening (my husband did most of the cooking of the beef), I sauteed some broccoli and carrots.  I did a simple sautee with olive oil and toasted sesame oil, added salt and pepper, and right before they were done tossed with sesame seeds.  Drizzled a little soy sauce over them and briefly tossed in the pan before removing from the heat. 

Serve the Mongolian Beef over rice with this or any other side dish you'd like, and enjoy! 

Recipe: Mongolian Beef 
Serves: 4-6


  • 8 ounces flank steak sliced  (remember to slice AGAINST the grain)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil  plus 1/3 cup for frying
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch plus 1/4 cup, divided
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce or low sodium tamari
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • serrano peppers, sliced.  Use 2-4 depending on the level of heat you desire. Remove seeds if desired.
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water (to use in the sauce)
  • 2 scallions cut on the diagonal into 1-inch long slice


Prepare the Beef Marinade:  Combine 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.  Toss in the sliced beef and let it sit and marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour.  

When ready to cook, dredge the marinated beef slices in 1/4 cup of cornstarch until lightly coated.  The beef will want to clump up, but you want to separate it out and make sure all the pieces are coated with cornstarch.  It's better to over coat them than to undercoat them. 

Make the sauce:  In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and hot water until the sugar is dissolved. Mix in 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce and cornstarch/water mixture.  Mix until well combined.  Set aside.  You will add this in near the end.  

Time to cook! Heat 1/3 cup vegetable oil in a wok over high heat.  Don't let it start to smoke, if it does, turn down the heat slightly.  Spread the flank steak pieces evenly in the wok, and let sear for 1 minute. Don't overcrowd the pan, you will probably need to cook the beef in a few batches. Turn over and let the other side sear for another 30 seconds.  Move the cooked meat to a sheet pan and repeat until all the meat is cooked.  We were pretty informal with this and stirred the beef while cooking to keep it from burning.  Once it's all cooked, remove all the meat to the sheet pan. 

If you have more than a tablespoon of oil left in the pan, remove.  If you have less than a tablespoon of oil, add in some more until you have about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Reduce heat to medium. 

Add in the ginger and peppers, stir for about 15-30 seconds.  Add in the sliced onions, radishes, and garlic, stirring constantly and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are cooked to your liking. Keep stirring so that the garlic does not burn. Then add in the sauce mixture to the pan and cook for about another 2 minutes.  Stir until the mixture thickens to a nice sauce like consistency.   Add in the cooked beef and scallions, tossing and cooking for another 30 seconds to one minute.  All of the sauce should be clinging to the meat and veggies.  If it's not, then continue to stir so the sauce can thicken some more.  Serve over rice and eat! 

Recipe is adapted from The Woks of Life Mongolian Beef recipe