Saturday, April 9, 2011

Japanese-Style Hamburgers (Wafu Hamburgers)

I know, yet another "burger" for the blog.  Only this one isn't really a burger.  It's a Japanese burger without a bun.  According to the cookbook (and to Wikipedia), it's most similar to a Japanese version of a Salisbury steak.  I have neither seen nor tasted a Salisbury steak, so I don't know whether that is a valid comparison or not, but I trust Wikipedia so I am going to go with it.  This version of Japanese burgers includes tofu, which from what I understand is not traditional.  Instead it was the attempt of some home cook to lighten up the burger (and perhaps to make it a little more economical as well).

If I hadn't made the burgers myself, I wouldn't have known that the ratio of tofu to beef is roughly 2:1.  Actually, I wouldn't have known or guessed that there was tofu in here at all.  The burger patty basically tastes like ground beef, although it does taste a little lighter than your typical all beef burger patty.  I would say that the biggest difference between these burgers and an all beef burger is the texture.  The burgers are noticeably softer and more crumbly.  Since they are so soft and crumbly, they are a bit delicate so you need to be careful when handling them and flipping them over in the pan.  Alex said that if he were to make the burgers again he would increase the heat on the pan a little so sear the burgers a little better on each side.  Since the burgers are very tender and soft, they would benefit from searing to form a crust.  I might actually garnish the burgers with some additional minced scallions for color and flavor, but I don't really think that it's necessary - I just really like scallions.

Recipe after the jump!

Japanese-Style Hamburgers (Wafu Hamburgers)
The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens
By Patricia Tanumihardja

14 oz package firm or medium-firm tofu
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
8 oz ground beef
2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp Japanese soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar
grated daikon radish for garnish

Wrap tofu in cheesecloth or a non-terry kitchen towel and squeeze out as much water as possible.  You want the tofu crumbled.

In a large bowl, mix the panko and milk together.  Add crumbled tofu, beef, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, and pepper.  Mash everything together.  Divide the mixture into 4 balls and flatten to form patties about 1/2-inch thick and 4-inches in diameter.  They will be very soft.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer.  Place the paties in the skillet and cook until the undersides are brown, 5-6 minutes.  Flip and cook until cooked through, another 5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, combine the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar in a small bowl.

When the burgers are done, reduce the heat to low and add the sauce to the burgers in the skillet and simmer for 1 minute.  Slide the burgers onto 4 individual plates. Drizzle the sauce over the tops and garnish with grated daikon.

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