Warming Up to the Savory Flavors of Mongolian Beef

Columns Ono, You Know

December 3, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

The countdown to the holidays has officially begun, and yes, I’ll happily admit that I’m already in the spirit of the season — my favorite time of year! I love the fact that the air is getting cooler (by Hawaii standards, of course) and the days are getting shorter. Out come the scarves, sweaters and boots, and in goes warm, savory food to our tummies. And while the hot chocolate, tea and soup are all grand, when it’s Chinese food that you’re after, Mongolian beef is one of those go-to dishes that provide ultimate warmth and comfort.

Typically, this dish is served in Chinese-American restaurants and consists of sliced beef, stir-fried with a medley of vegetables and a tasty gravy — no matter tangy or spicy, this dish defines onolicious.

So, in the season of giving, I present to you some of the best Ono, You Know establishments stirring up zesty portions of this festive favorite!

On On at McCully Chinese Restaurant

  • The editor holds a steaming plate of Mongolian Beef, one of her On On favorites.
  • On On's Mongolian Beef ($10.95)
  • On On manager Norman Wong is ready to take a bite of the restaurant's delicious beef dish.
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When you want to get your feast on this holiday season, On On at McCully Chinese Restaurant has everything your appetite desires. This family-owned-and-operated restaurant has been serving up mouth-watering Northern Chinese cuisine for years, while also showcasing a bit of local flair.

Owners Cowan and Faith Wong first opened the doors to On On in 1980, before relocating to its current location 20 years later. And while much time has passed, the outstanding customer service and high-quality cuisine remains as it’s always been — fabulous!

The Mongolian Beef, for instance, will always be a personal favorite and is a must-have at any family dinner.

“Here at On On, we serve a local-style Mongolian Beef ($10.95), with nice pieces of beef tenderloin and sliced onions sauteed in a tomato-base sauce seasoned with vinegar, soy sauce, and salt and pepper,” says manager Norman Wong.

And don’t be fooled by the name. According to Wong, Mongolian beef has nothing to do with Mongolia itself.

“The term Mongolian Beef is actually an Americanized term that was used to refer to something exotic,” he explains with a laugh. “It’s always been on the menu, but our Mongolian beef is so different from what you would find on the Mainland. Instead of a spicy brown sauce, our beef is served with a tangy, but sweet red sauce — and it’s not very spicy.”

Yet, if you’re looking for something to raise the temperature on these cooler days, On On also offers Kung Pao Beef ($10.95), featuring spicy beef with vegetables, complete with a chili oyster sauce. Now that really turns up the heat!

On On at McCully Chinese Restaurant
1110 McCully St.
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Golden Palace Seafood

  • Golden Palace's Mongolian Beef ($6.95)
  • Golden Palace's Gary Lam presents the ever-popular Mongolian Beef.
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Strolling through Chinatown, I had the irresistible urge to partake in some flavorful Chinese cuisine that was abundant in flavors and spice. Fortunately for me, my gigantic appetite led me to Golden Palace Seafood on North King Street — trust me, there’s no mistaking that golden dragon wrapping around the exterior of the restaurant.

As soon as I set foot into the establishment, manager Gary Lam quickly ushered me to a table in its decorative dining room, and it wasn’t long before a heaping portion of Mongolian Beef was placed before me.

“Mongolian beef is one of the most requested beef dishes here,” Lam says. “It’s one of those dishes that caters to the taste of the majority of the population.”

Priced at $6.95, the Mongolian Beef here is definitely worth your buck. Head chef Bing Yang Lin sautes zestful morsels of beef tenderloin with diced round onions and slivers of chili pepper to create one appetizing entree.

Now, this alone is quite appealing, but add to that a special, homemade sauce, and you have one lively dish with a kick that will stimulate your taste buds.

“The sauce really is what makes the dish,” Lam explains. “Once you taste it, you’ll notice a tangy, sweet-and-sour flavor.”

There’s also a hint of spice to the dish that I simply can’t get enough of, and if your palate can’t take the heat, don’t worry, it isn’t overpowering in the least.

Finally, the Mongolian Beef is served on a bed of sliced cucumber and fried rice noodle, resulting in a polished presentation. Served with a bowl of steaming hot rice, this meal is pure bliss. Perfect for the holidays, Golden Palace’s Mongolian Beef warms your body and soul. For me, it’s a prime example of comfort food that can never be replaced.

Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant
111 N. King St.
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Happy Day

  • Happy Day's Mongolian Beef ($9.95)
  • Happy Day can seat an abundance of diners in its dining room.
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All smiles, I recently ventured to Kaimuki, eager to enjoy a meal at one of my all-time favorite family restaurants, Happy Day. Visions of dim sum, honey walnut shrimp and Mongolian beef danced through my head, and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into forkfuls — rather chopsticks-fulls — of these prized Chinese dishes.

Yet, the Mongolian Beef consumed my cravings and drowned out the thoughts of any other tantalizing entrees. Owner Lisa Lum says this is common.

“The Mongolian Beef ($9.95) has always been a top-pick item off our menu.”

No doubt, this melt-in-your-mouth beef is a taste to behold. For starters, this savory dish features tender slices of beef mixed with pieces of red and green bell pepper, round onion and bamboo shoots, doused with a special sweet-and-sour sauce.

Planning a holiday party? Happy Day’s Mongolian Beef is a surefire way to bring cheer to your loved ones this season.

“We’re also offering lobster for $9.99 with a purchase of one entree, and dim sum takeout orders (8-11 a.m. daily) are discounted by 15 percent when you pay with cash, and 10 percent off when you pay by card,” Lum explains.

The holidays definitely call for a feast at Happy Day. All you need is a cup of warm tea and your meal is complete!

Happy Day
3553 Waialae Ave.
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