My Seventies Kitchen Episode 10: Mongolian Beef

Before we get started, I think it’s important to note that Mongolian Beef is not a dish from Mongolia. Instead, it’s a Taiwanese classic that is akin to Szechuan Beef, just much less spicy. At the end of the day, the specifics or the origin are unimportant. It’s probably been Americanized to death at this point anyway – all we really care about is the fact that it’s quick and delicious.

I don’t know about you, but the pandemic has definitely affected my level of ambition in the kitchen. Sure, I still get involved in big cooking projects. It’s just a lot harder to psych myself up to start them. I go to the store, buy all of the ingredients, and then end up ordering Pat’s Pizza more than I care to admit. Sometimes I just give a shit WAY more early in the day, before it’s actually time to cook.

This dish is an excellent remedy for this lack of motivation. All you need to do is get the Beef into the marinade, and you can chill for a while. When you are ready, all you need to do is toss some rice in the cooker. Then hack up an onion and some scallions (I like to have ginger/garlic puree on hand for nights like this. I usually pick it up in a jar at the Indian market). Fire up the wok, sizzle up some beef, serve over rice, and good to go. I like flank, skirt, or even hangar steak here – but you can obviously improvise. You can even sub in Chicken if you’re really feeling like letting it all hang-out and flying your freak flag.

If you have a real stove with real fire, I hate you, and I’m jealous. Also, this will come out much better for you than we ghetto electric stove people.

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My Seventies Kitchen Episode 2: Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu is a dish, much like Bolognese for the Italians, that has a strong foundation in traditional preparation – which is essential to understand before tinkering around with it. This recipe represents ten years of tweaking and substituting, before finally arriving at what I love personally.

The Condiments:

All of these are pretty standard in the Asian pantry, but there are a few ways to up your game here. The most important is sourcing Shaoxing wine with no salt added – the flavor is vastly superior and will reflect in your Mapo Tofu. The choice of soy sauce is all about what you prefer; I like the double fermented style because of the beefiness of the dish. To add the traditional fermented black beans, I essentially buzz them into a paste with the ginger and garlic because I prefer the texture. In choosing a Doubanjiang, try to find one that utilizes broad beans instead of soybeans – as, with all of these condiments, a little research goes a long way. The ketchup, while it may seem unorthodox, is a good thing. Lastly, buy high-quality Sichuan peppercorns and grind and sift them yourself for maximum effect.

The Meat & Tofu

For the longest time, I made this dish with ground pork (and chicken stock in the sauce) until one day, I randomly tried ground beef. I much preferred the outcome, fair use for the high-quality ground beef that is often a bit lean to use in things like meatballs, but perfect here because there are plenty of other sources of fat. I recommend Heiwa Tofu because it is delicious and made locally, so obviously, this may vary for you. What will not differ is that the better the quality of tofu, the better your Mapo Tofu will be.

The Rice

Many people would find my use of coconut rice downright appalling – and I am comfortable with that. To me, the buttery, luxurious style of the rice is the perfect foil for the many levels of spicy brought on by the Mapo Tofu. I am still happy eating the dish over plain steamed rice, as that is the way it is traditionally enjoyed.

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