Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mongolian Lamb with Green Scallions

When I think of Mongolian cuisine, I think of meat and vegetables cooked over preheated stones, whether in a sealed milk can (which is known as khorkhog) or in the cavity of a dead animal (which is known as boodog).  I don't normally associate Mongolian lamb with Mongolian cuisine.  Perhaps that is because whenever I see this dish, it is on the menu of a Chinese restaurant, not a Mongolian one. 

And, I have to admit that I am not a very big fan of Mongolian lamb served by Chinese restaurants.  I order the dish, but what I get served is usually a heapful of overcooked lamb drowned in a sauce that is reminiscent of MSG and high fructose corn syrup.  The dish is almost always a let-down, which is sad because I really love lamb.  I have always wanted to find a better Mongolian lamb dish.  Perhaps my quest should have begun with finding a better Chinese restaurant.  However, I am a cook; and, for me, a better starting place is in front of my own stove.

It begins with trying to find a good recipe.  I get some e-mails from various websites, like Food & Wine, Saveur and About Food, which suggest recipes.  One day, About Food had a recipe for Mongolian lamb.  The recipe seemed simple and straightforward, which is a bonus these days with two small children to look after.  The other bonus with respect to this recipe is that the sauce is thinner, a combination of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and rice wine or dry sherry.  

I set about to make this recipe.  The dish itself was very delicious; however, the pictures provide two helpful suggestions for the future.  First, despite my best efforts, I need to slice the lamb a little thinner.  Thinner lamb equals an even quicker cooking time.  It also provides a possibility of crisping the lamb around the edges, which adds some texture to the dish.  The other suggestion is to thicken the sauce.  This recipe went a little too far in the other direction.  The sauce, which was very tasty, was a little too thin and it was somewhat lost in the dish.  While I would not add corn syrup, I think something was needed to thicken the sauce just a little bit.  

On the whole, this dish is far better than any Mongolian beef that I have ordered at any Chinese restaurant.  Nevertheless, it could still use some minor tweeking.  This is what I love about cooking.  It opens the possibility for experimentation the next time I make this dish.  And, when I do that, I will either update this post or create a whole new one.  Until then ...


MONGOLIAN LAMB WITH SCALLIONS
Recipe from About Food
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the lamb):
1 1/2 pounds of boneless leg of lamb
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 scallions, cut into 3 inch lengths and then sliced thinly
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients (for the marinade):
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

Ingredients (for the sauce):
5 teaspoons dark soy sauce
5 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
4 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Directions:
1.  Prepare the lamb.  Cut the lamb into thin strips. Marinate the lamb for 25 minutes. 

2.  Prepare the sauce. While the lamb is marinating, combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Stir fry the lamb.  Heat a wok over medium to high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons oil.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Stir fry until aromatic (about 30 seconds).  Add the lamb.  Stir fry very briefly until the lamb changes color (about 1 to 2 minutes).  Add the sauce and bring to a boil.  Stir in the scallions.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.  Stir-fry for 1 more minute or until sauce is absorbed.  Remove from the heart, stir in the sesame oil, and serve immediately with rice.

ENJOY!

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