One of my favorite classic Chinese dishes is Mongolian Beef.
If you enjoy this dish, I would like to pose the following questions:
1) What distinguishes a truly superb rendition of Mongolian Beef from one that is only mediocre?
2) What are some of the ways that Chinese restaurants ruin their rendition of Mongolian Beef?
3) In which restaurant have you enjoyed the best Mongolian Beef you have ever tasted?
In response to #1, I find that high quality beef and an abundance of green scallions, with a minimum of sauce, tend to enhance this dish.
In response to #2, some restaurants skimp on the scallions and add other needless ingredients. One of our local take outs, for example, adds bean sprouts, which I find to be a total mismatch in this dish.
In response to #3, the best Mongolian Beef I ever had was at the Gee Joon restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada, located upstairs in Binion's Horseshoe downtown.
You've definitely aroused my curosity on this one. In Los Angeles, scores of students have for years dined on ultra cheap Mongolian beef. Basically, either an all you can eat situation (although the amount of beef was closely guarded) or an all you can pile on the plate deal. Invariably, it was mediocre but the trade off was price and quantity. I'm intrigued that there might actually be a real, tasty dish that all this feeding frenzy is based on.
Re your own response to your question #2, I totally agree, when restaurants add *anything* to the beef other than scallions, they are not being truthfull on their menu if the call the dish Mongolian Beef.
-Big Beef Eater, And Most Everything Else In A Chinese Restaurant
Truly great Mongolian Beef is abundantly joined on the plate by minced garlic. There's something about the sauce-beef-garlic-dried red peppers-scallions combo that just makes me happy.
Restaurants, for what ever reason, tend to use inferior cuts of beef. Maybe thinking that the peppers are going to cover up the gristle somehow.
The best Mongolian Beef I've found here in Sacramento is at Noodle City. Chef Liu adds the one thing which I have found which enhances the dish - hand cut noodles! These are a substantial wheat noodle which vary in width and vary in texture. The sauce clings to them and you can see the little particles of garlic on the noodles. Don't think I want the noodles in the summer, but right now - YUM!
1. A truly great rendition has a light sauce and not too much of it and contains a reasonable beef-to-veggie ratio (so many places serve a plate of beef with a token scallion here and there). Onions in the dish should still be crisp. Scallions should not be wilted overmuch.
2. Too much beef, or they overcook it, or they oversauce it. I love Chinese food the best when it's sauced the way a good salad is dressed - a tablespoon of sauce per serving, tops two if the sauce is to star.
3. Believe it or not, the best was at a Chinese restaurant run by a Korean family in Decorah, Iowa, where I went to school, called Cho Sun. They double-cooked the beef so that it had a bit of crust on the outside. (Usually when beef is cooked twice it ends up being a lump of animal protein charcoal.) They serve it with basmati rice instead of jasmine, which adds a nifty nutty taste to the meal.
The double-fried beef is often referred to as "Manchurian Beef". The beef is coated in cornstarch with egg white, fried in a little oil, drained, and tossed with the sauce. I prefer it to Mongolian, but that's what makes horse races. I think the secret ingredient to many of these dishes is browned, sliced garlic. Usually, browning garlic is a no-no, but it gives a unique taste to this type of beef dish.