Mongolian beef is not actually Mongolian. It is a Chinese-American dish that evolved from Mongolian Barbecue. Which is also not Mongolian. Or barbecue.
Mongolian barbecue originated in Taiwan in the 1950’s. The concept allowed diners to select a mix of thinly sliced meats and vegetables that were handed to a chef who stood over a hot griddle where they quickly stir-fried the food and handed it back to the guest over a bowl of rice. These restaurants hit their peak of popularity in the 70’s and 80’s.
The Mongolian Beef I’ve gotten from Chinese takeout is usually thinly-sliced, stir-fried beef with lots of onions. The onions add a particular sweetness to the dish. How do I know that? Because the first time I made beef and broccoli I used onions. And it was terrible. Scallions offer a much cleaner and sharper flavor. That’s what you should use for beef and broccoli. (And I do in this recipe.)
So back to Mongolian beef. I really wanted some one night but didn’t have any beef. I did, however, have lots of eggplant in the house so I made a conveniently vegetarian Mongolian eggplant with mushrooms for rich meaty texture and flavor.
And after all this I don’t know what this recipe is, but I can assure you that it is delicious.
- 4 tbs vegetable oil
- 2 Japanese eggplant cut in 1” pieces*
- 1 pint Crimini mushrooms, quartered
- 1 onion, halved and thinly slice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- White pepper
- Garlic or common chives
*Japanese eggplant are long and thin with thin skins and small seeds. They have a more delicate texture and lack the bitterness some people dislike in Italian eggplant. Any eggplant can certainly be substituted in this dish.
- 2 tbs soy sauce
- 2 tbs Hoisin sauce
- 1 tbs brown sugar
- 1 tbs cornstarch
- Whisk together sauce ingredients and reserve.
- Warm 1 tbs oil in a 12” skillet over med-high heat. Add eggplant and cook to brown, about 3-4 min. Reserve.
- Return pan to heat with 1 tbs oil. Add mushrooms and cook until beginning to brown, about 3-4 min. Reserve.
- Return pan to heat with 1 tbs oil. Add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 min. Make space in the middle of the pan and add remaining 1 tbs oil. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 sec.
- Return eggplant and mushrooms to pan. Toss through and cook 2 min to warm. Add sauce to pan and toss through until it coats ingredients.