Whenever I have a craving for bad Chinese food, I always go for Mongolian beef. My favorite used to be sesame chicken, but I had a bad batch once upon a time, and it dropped from the list for a while. Mongolian beef took over. And I won’t lie – I like the overly-sweet, sauce-coated, deep-fried beef strips, greasy onion (I can do without the bell pepper), and of course the ubiquitious crispy noodles. But that’s not going to stop me from trying my own version at home. I bought a couple of good flank steaks from the meat lab down the hall (yes, I work in a building that gives me weekly access to local, fresh cuts of pig, steer and the occasional lamb), a bag of short-grain white rice and some cellophane noodles. I was good to go.
Rasa Malaysia was my chosen recipe source – Barbara Tropp didn’t have a recipe (or if she did, I couldn’t find it). And really, could you pick a better source than RM? Have you looked at those photos? Every time I click on a recipe, I have to wipe the drool off my lip. I was sure I could get by with this one. The recipe was simple. Ingredients list, fairly short. I could do this.
Let’s just say it didn’t turn out like the recipe indicated, but it was still tasty. However, I cannot rightfully call this ‘Mongolian Beef,’ but rather we’ll stick with just ‘Hoisin Beef.’
The only two ingredients I didn’t have – oyster sauce and kecap manis – seemed important, but I hoped I could get by with hoisin. The general search consensus was that hoisin was the main component for Mongolian beef anyhow, so I figured I’d just sub and see where it got me. When 354 saw the sauce I was mixing up, he made a little face. ‘Are you sure that’s going to be enough?’ he asked me. I shrugged, trusting to the recipe, but after a few more sentence, I doubled the sauce recipe. I told you – we like sauce, here. I sauteed, stir-fried, mixed and reduced. It wasn’t Chinese cooking as I understood it, but a girl can only do so much with a 12″ nonstick skillet, no wok to be seen. Does it count if I used a bamboo spatula? It’s my new favorite kitchen instrument, by the way.
The crispy noodles were really my proudest part. I had no idea how to make crispy noodles, but I figured they had to be fried. I just didn’t fry them enough, if that makes sense. It took me almost 20 minutes to get them where they should be, so next time I’ll just take a tip and deep fry batches at a time.
Don’t be discouraged: the altered version of Rasa Malaysia’s Mongolian beef was still delicious. Rave reviews from the almost-husband, and I even took leftovers the next day. It just wasn’t what I was wanting, exactly. But it was still good, for an alteration with unexpected results. I’ve already got ideas for what to do next time, namely slice the beef thinner; fry it instead of stir-fry; and add part of the sauce after cooking.
Rasa Malaysia’s recipe is here. I’m not going to give you anything that I did, namely because all it involves is subbing hoisin for oyster sauce and a little extra sugar to add to the soy. Go over to Rasa Malaysia and try out that recipe instead, or do a few tweaks of your own and let me know what you come up with!
Just a reminder: it doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’ to be good.