10 December 2019

Food sources and inspirations

Twice over the past month we've made a dish called Mongolian Beef for our lunch. Why? Well, we had the TV on one morning and it was showing a travel documentary about Mongolia. One of the segments in the show was based on people riding a train across the steppe and enjoying a meal of Mongolian Beef in the dining car. We both remembered eating beef prepared that way in the past, probably in San Francisco where there were so many good Asian restaurants... back in the day when we still went to restaurants quite frequently.

This is our own addition to Mongolian Beef — peppers. Sweet peppers, actually. Why? Well, because one of the most successful crops we grew in our 2019 vegetable garden was peppers like the ones you see on the left. Our American friends K and J, who live just on the other side of Saint-Aignan, gave us some plants K had grown from seed. She had a surplus, and she offered them to us. The pepper plants enjoyed our hot and very dry weather over the summer. And even after the rains returned in October and November, the peppers kept on producing. Here are some Walt harvested in mid-November, when he was in the process of pulling out the year's tomato and zucchini plants. Those were finished, but not the peppers. We also got a few eggplants at that point.

So how you make this kind of sweet and spicy beef dish? Well, first you need some tender, lean beef, cut into strips. In France, we've been buying a very lean and tender cut of beef called une pièce à fondue at the supermarket. It's the kind of beef you use to make a meat fondue — une fondue bourguignonne — and it's often very reasonably priced. After cutting it up, you dredge the strips of beef in cornstarch (Maïzéna is the most famous brand of such fécule de maïs in France) and you stir-fry it.
Then you take the beef out of the pan and keep it in a warming oven. You pour off most of the fat and you stir-fry onions, peppers, garlic, and ginger root in the same wok until the peppers and onions are cooked but still slightly crisp.

In the meantime, you've made a sweet and spicy sauce by blending together and cooking soy sauce, water, hot red pepper (paste, powder, or flakes), and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the sauce starts to resemble a syrup. You can use brown sugar or what we call raw sugar (cassonade) for extra flavor.

The last step is to put the stir-fried beef back into the wok with the peppers and onions and along with the sweet and spicy sauce. The beef and vegetables are already cooked, so you just need to stir everything around for two or three minutes until the Mongolian Beef is hot and ready to serve.

Serve the Mongolian Beef with steamed rice or some cooked Chinese noodles, with some sesame oil if you like it. Garnish it with fresh coriandre (cilantro) or other herbs you like. We get our Asian ingredients from shops in Blois and over in Tours. Things like noodles and sauces in jars will keep indefinitely, so you can always have them on hand.

Here's a recipe that we based ours on. We added sweet peppers diced and red onion to ours.


  1. Oh this looks so good. Reading it before I go to bed, now, makes me want to binge eat. Or order out.

  2. Order an extra helping for me, will you, Diogenes? That looks so, so good. :-)


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