Japanese Chef Recreates the American Burger With a Twist

By: Justin Chan

Americans are accustomed to eating hamburgers, with some set on perfecting the science of making one. Some consumers prefer large burger servings, while others would rather eat bite-sized versions. In fact, the hamburger has become incredibly popular, particularly in Asia, where fast-food chains such as McDonald's are trying to increase their customer base and where one country has even been credited for creating the world's first burger.

In Hong Kong, one Japanese chef has re-invented the American burger to compete with local shops and to satiate the increasing demands for hamburgers in the region. According to the Wall Street Journal, Satoru Mukogawa, chef at Sushi Kuu, created a rice burger some time after last year's Japanese earthquake and tsunami. "Our customers were increasingly worried about eating Japanese seafood, so I made a little something else as an alternative," he said.

Although the rice burger is not Mukogawa's original creation, he changed and developed the recipe used by Japanese fast-food chain Mos Burger to create the only gourmet rice burger available in Hong Kong. He uses fresh ingredients in his dish but has yet to put it on the menu. Only frequent customers and regular patrons are aware of the burger, which can include chicken, wagyu beef, pork cutlet or shrimp tempura.

"I like to look at it as the perfect end to a Japanese meal," he said, explaining that he does not want the burger to take away from his wide selection of Japanese dishes. "Instead of ordering a bowl of udon, why not try a rice burger?"

The beef in Mukogawa's burger is made of American, Australian and Kagoshima wagyu and glazed with soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake. The patty is then fried in a wok and served medium. The process for making the rice bun, however, is much more complicated. Mukogawa said he uses Japanese pearl rice and mixes it with cornstarch to prevent the bun from falling apart. He then shapes it by hand and grills it lightly. "That drove us crazy," he said. "It took me a week to figure out how to keep it together."

To top it all off, the innovative chef melts American cheese on the burger and garnishes it with sliced onions and butter lettuce. "Even though it's a gourmet burger, I think this cheese works best," he said. "And the onions soften and release their flavor when they're heated by the meat."

While some may say that Mukogawa is simply interpreting a popular American delicacy, he sees his burger differently. "I think it can be considered Japanese cuisine," he said. "Dining is becoming more and more international - Japanese chefs using Italian ingredients, French chefs borrowing ideas from Japan. This is just an extension of that."

Photo: wintersweet

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