For those of you who don’t care about my blatherings but just want to get to the goods, click here to skip to the recipe.
There are two key menu items that my husband and I use to judge the worthiness of a Chinese restaurant: egg rolls and Mongolian beef. The area where we grew up had so many good options that we were quite spoiled. It had taken us some time, but we finally found a somewhat decent takeout place in our current town. They did provide delivery, but they’d tell you it’d take an hour or more because they were too lazy to deliver and hoped the longer wait time would convince you to come and get it yourself in 20 minutes. They had a seating area too; although, it was the kind of establishment where you took it on faith that the Health Department certificates on the wall were authentic. You most definitely did not want to chance seeing inside the kitchen for fear it would ruin for you the deliciousness that came out of there.
All of a sudden, they were closed. On vacation, the sign said. The voice mail greeting said they’d be back in a few days. That greeting played for weeks on end. We were worried. What was going on? I eventually checked with my Health Inspector friend, and she said nothing bad – just that it was undergoing change of ownership. Whew! Or so I thought. Finally, after a few months of cravings, our beloved Best Panda had reopened. They had a new, pretty menu and everything! Excited, we ordered our usual – egg rolls, Mongolian Beef, and Kung Pao Chicken. When I picked up the food, I was full of praise for how nice the place looked (they really cleaned it up!). But, when I got our food home… oh, how disappointed we were! Nothing tasted right. Not just that it was different, but even the egg rolls were meh.
We mourned our culinary loss, and hoped something new would come along. And it did! Not a new restaurant, but an amazing recipe that was not at all difficult to make. I remember my mom attempting this in the wok when we were growing up (she took a class). At the time, I wasn’t a fan of the Mongo beef, so I couldn’t really appreciate it (though the family reviews were raving). But, I seem to recall it being a lot of work to make Chinese dishes from scratch, and you know what they say…
Enter this amazing slow cooker recipe. I don’t even remember how I found it, but I’m so glad I did! After a few tweaks of my own, Hubs and I agree that it tastes just as good as anything we’ve ever had in a restaurant!
- 2 pounds flank steak
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic (or more, to taste)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup coconut aminos (original recipe called for ¾ cup soy sauce and no coconut aminos, but I felt it was too salty)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar *
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 can bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained (optional)
- 1 can baby corn, rinsed, drained (optional)
- 3 (or more) dried Tien Tsin (Chinese Chili Peppers) – optional
- green onions
- 1 package mai fun (rice noodles)
- peanut or vegetable oil (to fry noodles)
* I recently lowered the amount of brown sugar from the original 3/4 cup to 1/3 cup
For the beef
- Slice flank steak against the grain, into thin strips (about 1/8-1/4 inch).
- Combine steak and cornstarch in a sealed plastic bag and shake to coat.
- Combine olive oil, minced garlic, soy sauce, water, coconut aminos, and brown sugar in a slow cooker.
- Add baby corn and bamboo shoots (if using) and flank steak. Stir until everything is coated in the sauce.
- Add three (or however many you like) dried Tien Tsin to add some heat. They are super-hot, so please do not touch with your eyes. Yes, I realize I just said that. You know what I mean. And if you don’t, I’m sure I’ll personally nominate you for a Darwin award some day. Anyway, I suggest handling them with chopsticks.
- Cook for high 2-3 hours or on low 4-5 hours until cooked throughout and tender.
- Remove the Tien Tsin (again, not with your eyeballs).
- Slice green onions into 1 inch pieces to use as garnish.
For the rice noodles
- Heat 1 inch of oil in a wok or large skillet. When you see the oil begin to move it should be hot enough. Test by dropping a small piece of rice noodle into the oil. If it is ready, the noodle will immediately puff up.
- Break up rice noodles and drop some into the hot oil. You may need to flip the puffy “mass” with metal tongs to expose all noodles to the oil.
- Once they all puff up, remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Place a bed of puffed rice noodles on a plate.
- Use a slotted spoon to add beef and veg atop the noodles.
- Garnish with the sliced green onions.
- You may want to substitute sticky white rice for the rice noodles. Or, like Hubs, enjoy both the rice and the noodles.
- Feel free to vary the veg in your pot. I keep wanting to add snow pea pods, but can’t remember to buy them. Or, go old school and stick to the beef and scallions.
- If you like it hot and spicy, you can add a few Chinese red peppers to the slow cooker along with your veggies.