Hello everyone and welcome to yet another (Although a tad bit late) edition of Fantastic Feasts and Where to Find Them! If you haven’t noticed, I love comfort food, and all things that evoke the “taste of home”. Nothing seems to embrace home-cooking more–well, for me at least–than Western dishes that have been changed to suit the Asian palette. In my household, hamburgers aren’t served up on buns or grilled; rather, they’re fried up and served atop a bed of fluffy rice.
Japan has embraced this kind of remix of Western classics with a cooking style known as yohshoku, and one of the quintessential yohshoku dishes out there has to be the Japanese hambaagu.
So what separates a hambaagu from a good old hamburger? Preparation is the key, and I feel that many burger purists out there (Although, America does have unique regional burgers) would frown at the amount of extra stuff heaped into a hambaagu mix. A very good burger is meant to highlight the ground meat, with little seasoning sans salt and pepper and the cheese and other fixins’.
A hambaagu can include a lot of other, “extra” stuff to bulk up the meat and enhance the flavor; it’s similar to a meat-ball mix rather than a pure hamburger patty, so don’t balk at the amount of extra things that are thrown in here — it’s all meant to be one homologous mass of flavors that can also be customized to your personal tastes. My family likes to make their burgers savory, with a secret blend of steak sauce for extra moisture, and in the burgers made for this run of the recipe, we added in ginger and soy sauce to suit our mood.
So really, feel free to experiment, throw in extra fixings if your heart (And your stomach) tells you to, but at its core, here’s the basic idea for what goes into a hambaagu:
1 pound of ground beef; I was working with 85% lean here, don’t go too lean or your burgers will be too dry
Fresh breadcrumbs; you will need two slices of white bread, crumbled
1/2 of an onion, diced thinly
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for cooking
** Note, this is the basic mix, and it will taste plenty good on its own since these patties are meant to be served with another sauce, like Japanese curry. If you’re going to skip dousing it in a sauce, you can heighten the flavor by adding extra ingredients ranging from: diced garlic, cubed cheese, steak sauce, barbecue sauce, etc. is more than welcome according to your mood
First take your slices of bread and rip them to shreds in a bowl. This work will be done quickly if you have several, somewhat willing friends who are waiting around for you to finish cooking; put them to work by making breadcrumbs and soon you will have a lovely bowl to work with. Cover with a few glugs of milk; you want the breadcrumbs to be moist, not drowning in milk. Squeeze gently to help the bread absorb the milk, then set aside.
Next, dice up your 1/2 onion as finely as you can and fry it up quickly in the oil. Set aside and wait to cool completely.
Now working with your beef, Crack in one egg, add the breadcrumbs, the onions, then have one of your nearby volunteers mix the meat together. And when I say mix, I do not mean “massage” or prod at with the fingertips; with clean hands combine and mix the meat together to form a single mass of ingredients.
At this point, other things can be added; we opted for soy sauce which was measured by a practiced eye, and ginger minced very, very finely. Ginger adds a burst of flavor, but no one wants to bite into a chunk of it in their burger.
Added a little salt and pepper at first, then fried a test patty. Adjust seasonings accordingly (We needed more salt, so we added more soy sauce).
Then shape into patties; out of this batch we got about fourteen or so medium sized patties.
Once your patties are formed and you know they taste good, fry them up, and then simply serve with hot rice!
It’s uncomplicated comfort that can be customizable, and can be adjusted to serve a larger crowd; this batch was promptly wolfed down by a room full of hungry students with little complaint from the assembled party. Anyhow, that’s it for this week’s edition of Fantastic Feasts — tune in next time for yet another new recipe that you, too, can use to wow a crowd!