ABOVE: Us. BELOW: Them.
Mongolian beef has a cult following online. There’s good reason. It’s fantastic. Sweet, soy-glazed flank steak wok-seared with scallions and garlic, the menu describes.
P.F. Chang’s once posted its own gluten-free recipe on its website, calling for a much simpler and drier version with just 2 fl oz of soy sauce to 2 tbsp sugar with just 1 tsp rice vinegar. The sauce is supposed to cling to the meat: no pools of sweet sauce there.
The copy cat recipe variations floating around the web are drowning in sauce. But it is delicious. This dish is RICH. Serve a few lovely bites with accompanying dumplings or steamed veg rather than tucking into heaping bowls of the stuff (like we did.).
Let us declare: we are not in the “1 cup of oil for frying” camp. And while you’re basically aiming for beef caramel, we prefer 1/2 cup brown sugar to the 3/4 cup recipe.
P.F. CHANG’S MONGOLIAN BEEF COPYCAT
(adapted from Food.com)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, as needed
½ teaspoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
½ cup light/low sodium soy sauce (we’re going to cut back slightly by watering it down a touch).
½ cup water
1/2 heaping cup dark brown sugar
Optional sauce ingredients:
1 tsp cooking sherry
splash of rice vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil, for finishing
1 lb flank steak (we bought two packages of pre-sliced stirfry beef around $6 each)
¼ cup potato starch (Bob’s Red Mill) or cornstarch
2 or 3 large green onions, chopped into 2-inch batons
Mix sauce ingredients (ginger, garlic, soy, water, brown sugar – add black pepper, splash of sherry and rice vinegar if using) we used our pyrex 2-cup measuring cup and set aside until after beef is cooked.
Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4″ thick bite-size slices. Tilt the blade of your knife at about a 45-degree angle to the top of the steak so that you get wider cuts. Dust the pieces on both sides with potato or cornstarch. Let the beef sit, and heat skillet. Add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and heat to medium, not smoking. Brown the beef in batches. It will release from the pan when the crust forms. Flip and brown the other side. No need to cook all the way through: it will finish cooking in the sauce later. Reserve browned meat on a clean plate as you cook in batches. Add more oil to pan as needed. When all the beef is browned, turn burner heat down only slightly, give a stir to your reserved sauce, and quickly start deglazing the pan with it. It should bubble up and foam immediately like you’re making candy. Stir and lift up all the browned bits in the pan and watch for sauce to thicken slightly. Add beef and stir to coat each piece. There should be quite a bit of sauce, which will continue to thicken from the beef’s cornstarch crust. Add sesame oil and chopped green onion batons at final minute. If you add too early, the onions lose their bright green appearance. Serve over rice.
Be warned: this is a rich dish, so go easy on adding the gravy. This is best presented as part of a larger meal: steamed veg, dumplings, other dishes. A few delectable bites is heavenly. Too much and you’ll find it overwhelming.