Super crispy pieces of beef coated in a sweet salty sauce = heaven in the form of a stir fry. PF Chang’s copycat – done right! Marinating the beef is key for packing in great flavour into every single bite.
I cannot get enough of this Mongolian Beef. I am obsessed!
PF Chang’s is an Asian themed restaurant chain in the US. They seem to be everywhere – and it’s wildly popular. Because of its sheer popularity, I had to try it when I was in the US. I actually didn’t mind the Chow Mein that my friend got, but personally I found the Mongolian Beef too sweet and too oily.
I didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, and why America is so obsessed with Mongolian Beef! Every single other food on my “must try” list that I had on my US foodie road trip was a home run. But Mongolian Beef? Disappointing.
But knowing how popular it is, I tried it again at a Chinese restaurant in LA. I had too, I was curious. This time, I scored! I understood! Made properly, it is absolutely addictive. Dangerously so.
For the Australians reading this, Mongolian Beef is similar to what we know as Szechuan Style Beef and Peking Beef. Thin slices of beef that is shallow fried so it’s super crispy then tossed in a sticky sauce.
It’s the combination of crispy and sticky that makes this SO good. See how thick and caramel-like the sauce is? The photo on the right is when the sauce is bubbling away, thickening and coating the beef. Heaven in a pan, that’s what this is. 🙂
Did you notice that I made it in a skillet instead of a wok? To tell you the truth, normally I make it in a wok but I wanted to try it in a skillet too so I could provide directions for that.
It’s easier made in a wok because you can shallow fry the beef in the wok. But if you don’t have a wok, I recommend frying the beef in a small saucepan instead because the beef is cooked with only 1/4 cup of oil. If you use a skillet, then the oil spreads too thinly and you won’t get the same crispiness. After the beef is cooked, finish the rest of the recipe in a skillet. Easy!
In the crispy / sticky stakes, I have to say that this is right up there with Buffalo Wings. That is to say, if someone put a plate of this and a plate of Buffalo Wings in front of me, I am not entirely sure which one I would go for.
Actually, I do know. Probably both at the same time. 🙂
– Nagi x
PS I got side tracked and forgot to mention that I tried a few recipes I found on a mission to get the closest match to the Mongolian Beef I had at a Chinese restaurant in LA, not PF Chang’s which I didn’t enjoy very much. A few were close, but didn’t nail it. This recipe is from a blog called Woks of Life which is run by a Chinese family who used to run a Chinese restaurant in America. It’s my “go to” source for American Chinese recipes. Every single recipe I have tried has been an absolute ripper. Honestly!
- 8 oz / 250g beef steak (rump, scotch or flank), sliced into 1/5" / 3mm slices (Note 1)
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp cornstarch/cornflour
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp cornflour / cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (light or all purpose, NOT dark)
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry, or more chicken broth (Note 2)
- 3 tbsp / 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (Note 1)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch/cornflour
- 1/2 tsp ginger, finely minced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 scallions/shallots, cut into 1 1/2" / 4cm pieces on the diagonal
Combine the Beef and Marinade ingredients in a bowl and marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Mix the cornstarch with a splash of the water. Then add the remaining Sauce ingredients, including remaining water.
Add 1/4 cup cornstarch and use your fingers to lightly coat the beef.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a wok (Note 2) over medium high heat. Add 1/2 the beef and cook the first side for around 45 seconds or until golden and crisp. Then flip (I use an egg flip) and cook the other side for 30 - 45 seconds until golden and crisp. Remove onto a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining beef.
Discard the oil, leaving behind about 1 tablespoon in the wok.
Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for about 15 seconds. Don't let it burn!
Add the Sauce into the wok. Bring it to a simmer and let it cook for about 1 1/2 minutes or until it thickens into a glossy sticky sauce.
Add the beef and scallions, toss to coat and cook for a further 30 seconds.
Serve immediately with rice!
1. I have fried this in just 1/4 cup of oil which works well, it requires more tossing to get the beef to brown evenly all over and become crispy, but you do end up with uneven browning which doesn't matter because it's tossed in sauce. The other way is to shallow fry in about 3/4 cm / 1/3" of oil in the skillet - about 1 to 1 1/2 cups.
2. You could also substitute with Mirin or Cooking Sake. If you use Mirin, reduce the sugar by 1 tbsp.
3. You can use any beef suitable for grilling in this recipe. Slice the beef against the grain. When you look at the beef, you will notice that the fibres are mostly going in one direction. Place the beef in front of you so the fibres are going left to right. Then cut through the fibres i.e. cut perpendicular to the direction of the fibres. Cutting it this way makes the beef more tender!
4. If you don't have a wok, do this part in a small saucepan. It won't work in a skillet because the surface area is too large so the oil spreads too thinly. After cooking the beef, transfer 2 tbsp of oil from the saucepan into a skillet to cook the sauce and beef.
For the purpose of sharing this recipe on my blog, I made it in a frypan (to make sure it worked cooking the beef in a saucepan). But usually I make this in my wok!
5. This recipe is adapted from The Woks of Life. This blog is my "go to" trusted source for American Chinese recipes. It is run by a Chinese American family who used to own a restaurant - doesn't get anymore reliable than that!!
6. Nutrition assuming this serves 3. I measured the amount of oil discarded to calculate the nutrition.