Mongolian cuisine is influenced by the harsh continental climate that dominates the region, and by the cultures of its Russian and Chinese neighbors. While the use of vegetables is limited, eating camel is consumed as a delicacy. The cuisine primarily consists of dairy, meat and animal fats. The nomads of Mongolia sustain their lives directly from the products of domesticated animals including yaks as well as game. Even horse meat is eaten and can be found in most grocery stores. A diet high in fat is extremely important for the people of Mongols to withstand the harsh cold winters and physically demanding life.
With all that said, why am I offering you a recipe for Mongolian Shrimp and Broccoli? After all, this dish contains shrimp, not found in the traditional Mongolian diet, and a vegetable. We can thank a Taiwanese comedian and restaurateur. Wu Zhaonan, a native of Beijing, fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War at the end of World War II. Wu opened a street food stall in Yingqiao. Food was prepared on a large griddle. Wu’s food stall became very popular and even attracted diplomats and wealthy businesspeople. Wu wanted to call his food “Beijing Barbecue”, but because of the political sensitivity he settled with “Mongolian Barbecue” despite the fact that his food had no connection to Mongolia. And now you know why the foods we know as Mongolian, heavy in spice and vegetables with meats and seafood we all love, isn’t Mongolian at all. I don’t know about you, but I sure am glad a funny man with a talent for food gave us Mongolian Barbecue.
Mongolian Shrimp and Broccoli
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/3 cup hoisin sauce (optional)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoon minced ginger
3/4 cup chicken broth
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
3 green onions, thinly sliced for garnish if desired
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish if desired
Sticky Rice, for serving
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin sauce (if using), brown sugar, garlic, ginger, chicken broth, and red pepper, then set aside.
In another bowl, season shrimp with salt and pepper and mix with cornstarch until well coated.
In a large wok over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil and cook shrimp until golden-brown and slightly crispy, about 4 minutes per side; set aside. (Chop sticks help when turning shrimp in hot oil).
Add remaining tablespoon oil, broccoli, and a pinch more of the red pepper flakes. Stir-fry until tender, about 2 minutes. Add cooked shrimp and sauce and simmer for 5 minutes until thickened, stirring often to coat.
Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds if desired. Serve over cooked rice.