The Tsai Family’s Mongolian Beef

Although I suspect that this recipe has little to do with Mongolian cooking – or with authentic Chinese cuisine, for that matter – it nevertheless appeared under this title in the Tsai family’s Chinese restaurant. Ethnic Chinese know full well how different they are in so many ways from Mongolians, who invaded and conquered the Chinese. But I am sure that the exotic name was invented to entice Westerners to order this simple but delicious stir-fried beef dish.

The recipe illustrates the resourcefulness and good business sense of Chinese-American cooks, who are quick to adopt and adapt locally available foods and popular ingredients and use them to make very satisfying meals that beguile non-Chinese palates.

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) cabbage finely shredded
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
  • 450 g (1 lb) lean minced beef
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, finely shredded
  • 1 large red or green pepper, seeded and finely shredded
  • 5 spring onions, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put the cabbage and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large bowl of cold water and let it sit for 1 hour. Then rinse and drain thoroughly.

Toss the minced beef in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of rice wine, the soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, 1 tablespoon of garlic, the ginger and cornflour, mixing well, then let it marinate for about 20 minutes.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, dump in tablespoons of garlic and the shallots and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Then toss in the marinated beef and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes, breaking up the meat. Now throw in the rest of the vegetables and continue to stir-fry until they have wilted, about 5 minutes. Pour in the hoisin sauce and oyster sauce, sprinkle on ½ teaspoon of salt and the pepper and continue to stir-fry over a high heat for 3 minutes more. Then pour in 2 tablespoons of rice wine to finish glazing the dish. Serve at once.

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