Cooking take-out at home: Mongolian beef

This Christmas, I was gifted several new cookbooks, which I’ve been reading and bookmarking every night (expect lots of blog inspiration from these in the coming months!). The first recipe that caught my eye enough to try right away was Mongolian beef from Donny Enriquez’s Not Your Mother’s Cookbook.

In the book, he explains how this is a classic Chinese-American takeout dish but is also very easy to make at home. The thing is, I’ve never had Mongolian beef and couldn’t have told you what it looked like. This is what happens when your idea of Chinese takeout consists of fried rice and fried rice only (the story of how I’ll order shrimp with garlic sauce only when in Manalapan is for another time).

Donny’s accompanying video for this recipe sold me on it—the dark, sticky sauce on crispy steak looked too good to pass up.

So last night, I burned myself with hot oil for the umpteenth time and made Mongolian beef with rice (of the Rice-A-Roni variety, as we all know by now).

The verdict

This was as big a hit as my weeknight dinners have come! My closet-picky-eater boyfriend, who was noticeably unenthusiastic that this was on the menu, wound up loving the steak and sauce, as did I.

It’s amazing what a light coating of cornstarch can do for protein cooked in hot oil. The craggy edges of the steak got beautifully crispy, and the caramelized sauce added the perfect amount of sweetness, salt, and heat.

But here’s the thing.

This was shallow-fried steak with a soy-sugar sauce. In hindisight, of course I was going to like this. But I can’t really cook something so full of sugar and fat very often and still maintain my ice cream habits, which puts me in a sticky situation.

What’s not to like?

I’m curious how the same recipe would turn out if air-fried and if some of the brown sugar in the sauce was replaced with raw honey. I’m sure it won’t be as good (when is the “healthy” version ever as good as the fried version?), but if it’s passable, it would help cement this dish into an easy weeknight go-to in our apartment.

The good news is that if the air fryer doesn’t cut it, we can just move this to a weekend recipe—where I cook whatever I want, regardless of calories. It’s super quick, doesn’t require a ton of ingredients, and pays off with lots of flavor. Since my boyfriend and I both agreed that the crispy texture was the best part, we’ll sooner get fat than compromise on this dish.

Do you have experience air-frying steak bites? More importantly, have you had success air-frying steak bites? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @thepickyeaterchronicles so I can experiment with this delicious dinner! No takeout necessary!

Published by Bethy St. John

Lifelong picky eater with a love for all things cooking. I'm a complicated woman.

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