Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Home Depot Dinner" (Fix Yours Yourself): Mongolian Grill Episode

One summer my sister-in-law came to visit us when we lived in Colombia. The day I took her out shopping and to a mall for lunch in the food court I had a new culinary experience--thanks to her adventuresomeness. 

I usually got a typical Colombian dish called ajiaco soup made with three potatoes and served with a piece of corn on the cob, capers, sour cream, avocado, chicken, and rice. Mmmm...makes me hungry just to think of it! But she had already been served that at the home of two of our Colombian friends, so she wanted to see what else there was.

The food court was a round three story section of the mall, open in the center to a small ice skating rink. We wandered all three levels looking at the options and being accosted by the people who stood outside trying to entice us into their establishment.

Finally she decided on a "Mongolian" restaurant. It looked strange and different and I would never have had the nerve to try it. But we picked up our bowls and began to fill them with rice, noodles, vegetables, chicken, shrimp, and finally various oils and sauces. These we handed over to the energetic men working at the grill. They stir fried the contents of our bowls until everything was well cooked and chopped up by their sharp spatulas. Then they flopped our food into a styrofoam container which we carried out to an outside table where we could enjoy our lunch and watch the people go by.

I liked it!

The next time my husband and I came to that mall for lunch we got a large bowl to share between us. Since we are creatures of habit, that was usually what we ordered when we were in that part of town at lunch time.

When we moved back to the states we discovered that there is a chain of restaurants in the states that make this kind of meal--although quite a bit pricier than in South America!

Not long ago, my daughter-in-law decided to have my daughter over for Sunday lunch and the three of them made their own "Mongolian Grill". I filed that idea away. Then over her Christmas break, our daughter wanted to have a few friends over for a meal. I wanted to make it a fun, interactive meal and I dredged the idea up from somewhere in the recesses of my brain. 

We scoured our pantry for ideas of what we could put on it and looked through the Internet for ideas. I set up two non-stick frying pans on the stove and plugged in an electric skillet so that three could be cooking at once. It was a great success! Everyone kept commenting on what a fun meal it was.

You could do this for your family or guests, too. Remember this is an idea that will get people to linger longer and connect more as they work together. Here's are some ideas to have; to give you an idea of how much variety you need I marked those we had with an asterisk (*).
(All the veggies and meats were chopped.)

brown rice*
white rice
wild rice
pad Thai noodles
green onions*
bean sprouts
baby corn
sliced water chestnuts
multi-colored peppers*
grated carrots*
sliced ripe olives*
chunk pineapple*
snow peas
bamboo shoots
black beans*

(I put the meat into 2 ounce disposable cups and let each person choose two cups worth to add to their mix)
deboned, skinned chicken breast, chopped*
steak, chopped
tiny deveined shrimp
pork, chopped

olive oil*
sesame oil*
rice vinegar*
soy sauce*
balsamic vinegar*
hot sauce*
garlic chili sauce
garlic broth
sweet chili sauce
hoisin sauce
ginger broth
hot chili oil
garlic oil
jalapeƱo juice
lime juice

Pour 1 Tbsp of oil into frying pans and let them get hot while diners choose their food.

Have all the ingredients set out in bowls or on plates with spoons so diners can heap on their plate or in their bowl what they want. Suggest they start with about half a bowl of rice and/or noodles. Then add the veggies and other foods they would like. Tell them how much meat they can take. 

Show them how to stir fry their food until it is well cooked. Make sure they add more oil if it begins to stick too much.

Have some nuts or other snack for those who can't cook yet to snack on or have them mix up their own beverage by adding lemon-lime soda to fruit drinks.

When the food is cooked, each person can go sit down and eat, others will join them. Have enough food so those who were timid to start with or are extra hungry can go serve themselves some more.

Did you like this idea? I have some more "Home Depot Dinner" ideas where everyone connects with each other, by connecting with the food. Over the next weeks I will offer more of these ideas for fun meals. Be watching!

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  1. Oh what fun! My senior mom and I LOVE Mongolian BBQ. We've been blessed over the years by some that were NOT too expensive AND quite tasty. I don't know that I'd be brave enough to try it at home, but you have made me decide to start looking for one in our new home we've relocated to in Washington. Thanks for the inspiration. Have a blessed and beautiful week.

  2. What a fun idea! I love Mongolian Beef restaurants and they do have a few in our area but I never thought to do it at home with friends! Just stopping by from the GRAND Social. Hope you get a chance to do the same!

  3. This is such a great idea. Thanks for sharing @DearCreatives party! I'm going to be giving your recipe and idea a shout out! I can't wait to do this.

  4. Congratulations! This post is featured over at Diana Rambles today and has been pinned in the Featured at Diana Rambles board at Pinterest, Tweeted, and Recommended on G+. Please grab a featured button off my sidebar or via the link under the features. Thanks for sharing this awesome idea!



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