I love spicy, sweet Mongolian beef, and almost always order it at Chinese restaurants or when the roomie and I do takeout. A major benefit to cooking it at home, however, is that I get to control what goes into it. I opt to use significantly less sugar than most recipes call for (3 tablespoons in the whole recipe, as opposed to 3/4 cup!), and I skip the cornstarch.
Additionally, I stole a technique from Thai satay chicken: marinating the meat in plain yogurt before cooking. The acids in the yogurt work overtime, breaking down the connective tissues in the meat (isn’t that just the most delicious image ever?), yielding a finished product that cooks quickly into bites of beef with tender, juicy interiors and crispy, caramelized exteriors.
Ingredients 1/4 cup plain yogurt $1.50 for 8 oz.
3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided pantry
1 lb flank steak, sliced into quarter-inch-thick bite-size pieces $5
2 tablespoons cooking oil (canola, vegetable, peanut, or coconut) pantry
2 cloves garlic, minced pantry
1 one-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated 50 cents
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar pantry
1 1/2 tablespoons (plus more to taste) Asian chili sauce (preferably sambal oelek) $2 for 8 oz.
3 green onions, cut into one-inch slices $1 for a bunch
Total cost of ingredients: $10
Directions In a mixing bowl, combine yogurt and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Stir well. Add sliced flank steak, mix well to combine, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (up to two hours). Once beef has finished marinating, rinse in a strainer to remove excess yogurt.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large frying pan or wok over high heat. Brown the marinated, rinsed beef for two to three minutes on each side, until edges become crisp and caramelized. Transfer beef to a clean plate.
Reduce heat to medium, add the second tablespoon oil, and cook garlic and ginger for about 20 seconds, moving the pan around to keep the garlic from burning. Add the remaining soy sauce, water, brown sugar, and chili sauce, increase heat to high, and bring to a simmer (this should take about a minute).
Add the beef to the sauce and cook, moving the pan around and stirring frequently, until the beef has absorbed most of the sauce and is cooked through. In the last minute of cooking, add the sliced green onions and toss well.
Serve hot, with steamed rice if desired.
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