To celebrate the great Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan, I made Mongolian Beef today. Don’t think that I am ignorant of the fact that the dish is not from Mongolia. I just wanted an excuse to put Benedict Wong’s Kublai poster on my blog, together with my food. Benny and I shared a passion for eating yummy food in great quantities when we were in Malaysia. He is an extremely talented, hardworking and generous actor. His Kublai in Marco Polo is breathtaking. And he is the sweetest person in the world.
Okay, back to my relationship with Mongolian Beef. It was not a dish that I had ever eaten growing up in China. Back when I was growing up, beef was rationed for registered Muslims only. I guess Mongolian Beef is a Chinese American invention, much like the fortune cookies and my two daughters.
The first time I had Mongolian Beef, I was working as a receptionist in a Chinese restaurant in the San Fernando Valley to support myself through college. A take-out order of Mongolian Beef was never picked up and the manager let a few of his favorites eat it while we were standing in the back of the kitchen. I found it delicious and wished I could eat it at my leisure sitting down.
The restaurant was near a beer company, and sometimes the beer executives would entertain their business associates in the restaurant. The manager would say to his VIP diners “taking you to your seats is the number one movie star from China”, as if I wasn’t present. And the beer executives would smile and say really, she is pretty all right. They thought the manager was attempting at a joke that wasn’t funny. Though I had been without money all my life, I never felt poor. As a girl raised from generations of old world intellectuals, I believed that the pursuit of knowledge was much nobler than the pursuit of money. But I remember feeling shabby and impoverished under their condescending stare. And I hated that feeling.
A classmate of mine at the time was a stuntwoman in Hollywood and when she learned that I was a professional actress in China she encouraged me to find an agent in Hollywood. She said the pay would be 10 times more than what I earned in the restaurant. Though there weren’t any interesting parts for me to play in the beginning, I was just really happy that I never had to set foot in that Chinese restaurant again.
I have ordered and made Mongolian Beef dozens of times since that first bite, and I try to perfect the dish every time I make it. Peter told me that this was the best Mongolian Beef he’d ever had, but of course he would say that; he is my husband and he blindly adores everything I do
Adapted from rasamalaysia
8 oz beef tenderloin (thinly sliced) 半斤牛肉
2 tablespoons cooking oil 两勺油
2 stalks leeks/scallion 两棵大葱
1 inch ginger (finely chopped) 一寸生姜
3 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)三粒大蒜
1/4 cup beef stock or water 1/4 杯水
Chili pepper flakes to taste 少许红辣椒
1 teaspoon corn starch 一小勺淀粉
1 teaspoon soy sauce 少许酱油
2 teaspoon Chinese cooking wine (rice wine or Shaoxing wine) 少许酒
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (to tenderize the meat)少许小苏打
2 teaspoons oyster sauce蚝油
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce生抽酱油
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce一点点老抽酱油
3 dashes white pepper powder白胡椒
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil麻油
1 teaspoon sugar or to taste少许糖
Marinate the beef slices with the seasonings for 30 minutes. Heat up a wok with 1 tablespoon of oil and stir-fry the marinated beef until they are half-done. Dish out and set aside.
Heat up another 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté the garlic and ginger until aromatic. Add leeks and beef stock/water, cover the lid to cook the leek until soft. Add the beef back into the wok and then the sauce. Continue to stir-fry until the beef slices are done. Scoop out and serve hot.