To warm body and soul, the past few weeks have been a bubbling cauldron of soups -- lentil, turkey bone, chicken vegetable, black bean, seafood bisque, sweet potato, and Hungarian mushroom. But last night, even the precious remnants of Viking chef Nick Seabergh’s inspired “double pork gumbo” couldn’t inspire us. Ignoring warnings of icy bridges and hidden patches of ice, we dispatched a fearless emissary out into the “wintry mix” in search of dinner that could not be stirred with a spoon.
The message is clear – at least to me. It’s time for a psychological culinary shift. It’s time to hide the stock pots and get out the wok. Enough of rolling boils and slow simmers, let’s crank up the BTUs on the Viking Range.
I’m craving Mongolian Beef, a spicy beef stir-fry that conjures up images of fur wrapped Mongol nomads huddled over smoky fires in yurts as howling icy winds blow across the steppes. Despite its exotic name, Mongolian Beef is about as traditional to Chinese cooking as say…chop suey or chow mein. Culinary experts surmise that the term "Mongolian" was coined right here in America to add a touch of the exotic to a certain restaurant’s delicious stir-fried beef.
As in most stir-fries, the work is done ahead of time chopping and gathering ingredients for the quick-cooking process to follow. One of the main elements of this dish is hot bean sauce, a salty and spicy paste that’s a staple in Chinese cooking. Depending on what I find in the market, I use hot bean sauce or hot bean paste (also called soybean paste with chili). One sure-fire way to build an Asian pantry—especially if you live in a small town devoid of an interesting Asian section in the supermarket – is to place an order with www.asianfoodgrocer.com. Hot bean sauce is $1.98 and adds the perfect kick to this dish. I use the full amount referenced in the recipe (or more), but you may want to back off to suit your taste, especially if using the more concentrated paste. I’m using crisp rice noodles (rice sticks) as a bed for my Mongolian Beef today. To add some sizzle to this dreary week, I’m looking for a big bang in my cooking…and rice noodles provide high entertainment value. The drama of throwing rice noodles into hot oil and watching them puff up in about a nano-second satisfies my need for immediate gratification and is a great “party trick.” If you’re a “self-actualized” individual and don’t need snap, crackle and pop to entertain yourself, stick with plain white rice. It’s always a worthy accompaniment to any stir-fry.
Makes 4-6 servings
2/3 lb. beef flank steakMarinade for beef:
- 1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 4 cups oil for deep-frying rice noodles
- 1 oz. rice noodles (rice sticks)
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon hot bean sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed in ½ cup water
- 8-10 green onions, chopped in 1 ½ inch lengths
Use a cleaver to slice beef across the grain and at an angle into thin strips. Combine marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add beef strips and mix well. Let stand at least 1 hour.
Heat oil in a wok over high heat to 350°. Gently loosen roll of rice noodles and break into two inch portions. Carefully lower half the noodles into hot oil with a slotted metal spoon or brass Chinese strainer and press under oil for 2 seconds. Immediately remove puffed noodles from wok with slotted spoon or strainer. Set aside to cool.
Remove all but 5 tablespoons oil from wok. Heat oil remaining in wok over high heat for 30 seconds. Stir-fry marinated beef until very lightly browned. Remove with slotted spoon or strainer and set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons oil from wok. Add hoisin sauce, hot bean sauce, cornstarch and water mixture to oil remaining in the wok. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add green onions and cooked beef. Stir –fry for 30 seconds. Spoon over noodles (or white rice).