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Known as Meng Gu Niu Rou, this little-known (well in the UK anyway) dish is utter heaven. I am not an expert chef in any way. However when I cooked this dish, I felt that I had really achieved something. Perhaps it is because a wok can turn even a random assortment of ingredients into a delicious meal. Perhaps its because the recipe was simple for me to follow. Whatever the reason, I suggest anyone with a wok should give this a go. WARNING! Do not attempt this recipe with anything but a wok, unless you really can't afford one.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fillet or sirloin steak
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil/vegetable oil
  • 2 dried red chillies, halved lengthways
  • 4 sping onions, shredded finely
  • 2 large fresh red chillies, de-seeded and shredded finely
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 1.5 tablespoons of Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • salt
  • chopped spring onions (two bunches should be enough)

For the marinade

  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons peeled and finely chopped fresh root ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 0.5 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour

As a preliminary note, you may wonder what's the point in using different kinds of soy sauce, chilles and such. I'd stick with the recipe. If you can't get the ingredients, use whatever is closest. Remember though that these people had centuries of getting this recipe right!

Slice the beef into strips about 1.25 inches long and 0.25 inches thick. Take the marinade ingredients and mix together. Pop the strips in the bowl with the marinade and massage the marinade in. This is the best way to get all the flavour into the beef.

Heat a wok on a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil. Keep heating it until the oil is very hot. Add the beef and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the meat is brown. Remove the beef from the wok and set aside. Pour out all but about 1 teablespoon of the oil.

Reheat the oil in the wok. When it is hot, add the dried chillies and stir-fry for 20 seconds over a medium heat. Add the spring onions and frsh chillies, stir-frying for another 20 seconds. Add all the other ingredients and stir-fry for 30 seconds over a high heat. Put the beef back in the wok, add a little salt (and I mean a LITTLE) and heat the beef until it is heated through. Serve with spring onions.

By the way I obviously didn't invent this. This is a traditional recipe, though this particular version is by Sainsbury's. Though I'm sure they got it from someone else....

I'd randomly chosen the place because I didn't know what to eat. I do that pretty frequently. When I'm hungry and don't feel like eating anything, it's usually Chinese food.

Of course the buffet was closed and it was far too late to take advantage of the "lunch" rates. Generally, when I eat at a new Chinese place, I try out the Kung Pao Chicken. I've found that if they can get that right, most of the rest of the menu will be at least pretty good. Of course that doesn't work very well when the place doesn't sell Kung Pao Chicken.

After some further menu stareage, I selected the Mongolian Beef. The recent weather change was really wreaking havoc on my sinuses and I wanted something to clear things up a bit. Did I want the large or the combo? The combo came with rice and an egg roll so I went with that. If the beef was cooked right, I'd need all the backup I could get. $9 later, I filled my drink and sat down.

The air was filled with the sound of the grill and some Chinese television show. It was probably a soap judging by the music, but my extensive inexperience with Chinese culture could have been fooling me.

I watched a few cars come and go in the parking lot. A uniformed man parked and entered the restaurant. I couldn't tell what the uniform was, but he struck me as being from out of town. Maybe he was one of the many hurricane relief workers who have been through town lately. He ordered pepper steak and sat down across the room from me. My food was ready about five minutes later.

If you've never eaten Mongolian Beef, you should know that it's generally made of strips of beef and various onions, with lots of hot peppers ground up and sneaked in where you can't eat around them. When made properly, it will positively sear your insides and make you wonder what the hell you were thinking when you ordered it.

This was truly proper Mongolian Beef.

"Wow," I muttered aloud. This stuff even looked aggressive. It looked angry. It looked like freaking Genghis Khan in a metal tin. The food obviously wanted to get up and give me a thorough ass-kicking but instead it just sat there, taunting me.

I took a bite of the egg roll and a sip of my drink as it started to talk about my mother. According to the beef, she got into some pretty kinky S&M with it last night and keeps begging for more. Now, I've heard stories like this before but it was a little more unnerving than usual coming from my dinner. From experience, I knew what was coming next so I started eating it. I really didn't feel like hearing the water sports part again.

I tried to make quick work of the food but it didn't go down without a fight. Uniform Guy finished his pepper steak and left. That's usually my experience with pepper steak as well ... it goes quickly and quietly. However, I generally prefer my food with more personality.

I decided to call a draw at the half way mark and head out. I threw out the remains and headed out the door. It was 5:30 -- late enough to buy beer.

Now there's a fantastic idea.

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