GK Mongolian BBQ

The Food of Warriors

by Jessica Clare    photography by Matthew James Photography

 

As the summer heat finally breaks, it's time for backyard BBQ enthusiasts to cover up their grills and try a different kind of bee-bee-cue. Manteca GK Mongolian BBQ opened May 31, but Ghinggis Khan has been a well-known name among Valley residents for decades. Matt Shih's parents, Ronnie and Shao Ween Shih, opened the first restaurant on Grand Canal Blvd in 1984, when Shih was only a year old.

"When we first started, my dad would be cooking, my mom would serve, and sometimes there would be another guy in the back washing dishes. We'd all wash dishes together at night," said Shih. "I grew up in it."

Shih stepped into the family business after graduating with a double major in psychology and sociology from UC Davis, and in 2006 opened the Tracy location. The West Lane and Modesto locations followed in 2007 and 2010. It was in 2010 that Shih took over the whole chain, following his dad's sudden passing.

"Dad passed away the day before they broke ground in Modesto; [he] had a heart attack. It was awful. My dad was the boss, I was his right hand guy."

Shih's mom is currently living in Taiwan, leaving him in charge of the whole Ghinggis Khan empire.

GK Mongolian BBQ occupies a niche somewhere between the typical sit-down restaurant experience and fast food, pairing fresh, quality ingredients with speedy service and crazy low prices. The unprocessed foods and dining flexibility offered by mongolian BBQ make it a popular choice, regardless of dietary restrictions.

"I don't even know what a vegan is, but we have tons of them coming in," said Shih.

For those who aren't familiar with this DIYstyle dining, start with a huge, empty bowl, which you then proceed to fill with any combination of delicious ingredients that your hungry little heart desires. Diners can pick thinly sliced beef, chicken, pork, turkey, or shrimp, which costs a little extra. Vegetarians (and vegans) can revel in the wide selection of vegetables, including lettuce, spinach, onions, tomato, bean sprouts, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, pineapples, and tofu. The savvy save the thick wheat noodles for last, which leaves more room for meats and veggies and keeps anything from spilling out.

After piling your bowl high with fixings and ladling on your choice of sauces, the mountain of food is passed over to the chef. The style of cooking is what separates Mongolian BBQ from Chinese food. Noodles, vegetables, and meat are pushed around a giant, flat grill, a holdover from the days when Mongolian warriors cooked their meals on the surface of their shields propped over open fire.

When you get back to your table with your mammoth bowl of now-cooked noodles; drinks, egg flour soup, rice, and spring rolls will be waiting. The egg flour soup is thicker and more flavorful than the style typically served in Chinese restaurants, and filled with vegetables and tofu. While this may look like a daunting amount of food, GK challenges brave diners to exercise the all you can eat dinner option and refill their bowls as many times as their stomachs can handle.

The way the food tastes is almost entirely up to the customer. This buffet-esque style of dining offers customization that eliminates the need to special order to fit preference and diet. Don't like mushrooms? Don't get them. Love mushrooms? Get 100 mushrooms. No one will tell you you're wrong, and no matter what combination of noodles and fixings you assemble, the result will be a tasty departure from typical Chinese food.


BEFORE YOU GO:
GK Mongolian BBQ
1039 S Main St., Manteca
(209) 824-4516

7840 West Ln., Stockton
(209) 952-3131

3296 W. Grant Line Rd., Tracy
(209) 221-7008
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