These burgers are wonderful!
And I almost didn’t try them!
Long before fast-food restaurants became popular in Japan, people made American-style burgers at home. This yoshoku (Western-style) meal included the soy-glazed burgers, bevel-cut carrots, a green vegetable, and a flat plate of plain white rice. In Japan, rice is always eaten from a bowl, so serving it on a plate makes it Western-style.
Reading this recipe, I suspected that these burgers would be like White Castle—you either love or hate their sliders—beef that has been ground, flavored, adulterated with onions, and pounded into mushy submission. Recently, we drove past our local White Castle and I commented that I hadn’t been in it’s new (10 years old?) smaller glossier version. Of course he then had to get a bag of their burgers—from the drive-thru: I didn’t think I’d like the very onion-y odor inside. Luckily it was warm enough to ride with the windows down.
White Castle was founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. Walter A. Anderson partnered with cook Billy Ingram to make White Castle into a chain of restaurants and market White Castle. At the time, Americans were hesitant to eat ground beef after Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle had publicized the poor sanitation practices of the meat packing industry. Founders Edgar Waldo “Billy” Ingram and Walter Anderson set out to change the public’s perception of the cleanliness of the industry. To invoke a feeling of cleanliness, their restaurants were small buildings with white porcelain enamel on steel exteriors, stainless steel interiors, and outfitted their employees with spotless uniforms.
…The ground beef was formed into balls by machine, eighteen to a pound, or forty per kilogram. The balls were placed upon a hot grill and topped with a handful of fresh thinly shredded onion. Then they were flipped so that the onion was under the ball. The ball was then squashed down, turning the ball into a very thin patty. The bottom of the bun was then placed atop the cooking patty with the other half of the bun on top of that so that the juices and steam from the beef and the onion would permeate the bun. After grilling, a slice of dill pickle was inserted before serving.
These burgers are wonderful!
In the minor research for this post, I learned that WC sliders were made a bit differently from what I thought. Now, of course they use frozen squares of ground beef and re-hydrated onions.
At any rate, I’m so glad to have made these Japanese-style “American” burgers—ground beef, flavored with miso and saké, adulterated with bread crumbs, egg, and onions, and pounded into mushy submission. And somehow, these are delicious. Must be the special sauce. Oh, wait, that’s another chain! And their special sauce is not made with sugar and shoyu.
|Soy-Glazed Beef Burger
makes 4 patties
From Washoku, By Elizabeth Andoh, page 264
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, finely minced
1 Tablespoons saké
1 ¼ pounds ground beef
½ cup panko (breadcrumbs)
2 Tablespoons beaten egg
2 teaspoons dark miso
|Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until wilted and slightly aromatic but not browned. Add 1 Tablespoon of the saké and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the onion to cool to room temperature.
|Forming the burgers:
In a bowl, combine the beef, panko, and egg. Add the miso and the cooled onion and knead with your hands to ensure even distribution. The Japanese will often gather the meat mixture, lift it, and throw it back with force into the bowl, repeating this action 4 or 5 times. The mixture will be fairly soft, but the tossing ensures the meat will hold together. Divide the meat mixture into 4 equal portions, and shape each portion into an oval patty about 4 inches long, 2 ½ inches wide, and ¾ inch thick.
|Frying the burgers:
1 teaspoon oil
1 Tablespoon saké
|Add 1 teaspoon oil to the same skillet you used to sauté the onion and place over medium heat. When hot, add the patties and sear on the first side until browned, about 1 minute. Flip and sear the second side, pressing to flatten. The surface may crack a bit, but this is of no concern. Lower the heat, add the remaining 1 Tablespoon saké, cover, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes for medium rare. Check for doneness by pressing the meat with your fingertip: it should be fairly firm. Or poke with a toothpick: the juice will be slightly pink. Well-done: cook for 8 to 10 minutes, very firm to the fingertip, and the juice would be clear.
|Special Sauce (glaze):
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon hot water
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
|In a small bowl, combine the sugar and hot water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the soy sauce and stir again to mix thoroughly. Return the skillet to high heat and pour the soy mixture into it, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure all the sugar is added. Shake the skillet to coat the beef patties, and flip them once after a minute to make sure they are evenly glazed. Serve hot, spooning extra sauce on top.